Believe it or not, the most powerful tool that you have for self-care and rejuvenation is your breath.
The Breath-Mind Connection: Pranayamas
Have you noticed that when you are under stress, your breath changes? You become anxious, reactive and fearful. Your thinking becomes contracted, narrow and limited.
Pranayamas are powerful yogic breathing exercises designed to retrain your body-mind into new ways of thinking, perceiving and behaving.
- Rewiring your body’s response to stress
- Clearing the subtle energy channels of the body
- Bringing clarity and freshness to the body & mind
- Balancing the emotions, bringing a positive, peaceful mood
- Boosting the immune system
- Slowing the aging process
If you are new to meditation or unsure of how to start, working with the breath is probably your best bet. It is simple, energizing, clarifying to the body/mind and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
In Ancient India, the rishis (yogis recognized as sages or seers) would teach these breath techniques to the kings and rulers governing the land. They knew that by sharing this knowledge in the high courts, they would help their leaders to govern with clarity of mind, courage, compassion and breadth of perception. This, in turn, would help to bring justice, peace, and prosperity to the people.
Here are 3 breathing exercises that you can try at home:
1. Breath of Fire (Kalabati Breath)
- Relaxing and energizing;
- Supports weight loss & strong digestion; tones abdominal muscles;
- Increases mental acuity, improved concentration and heightened senses;
- Brings heat (transformation) to the body, improving circulation;
- Increases lung capacity and improves respiratory efficiency.
Avoid this breath if you are menstruating, or suffering from cardiac problems or high blood pressure. This breath is heating, so can also be aggravating to pitta dosha.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi shodhana)
- Helps balance both hemispheres of the brain (right – responsible for action & strength; left – responsible for calmness & relaxation);
- Sharpens concentration & mental clarity; helps to calm an overactive or worrying mind;
- Provides a boost of energy & supports sound sleep;
- Useful in times of stress, such as before an exam, important meeting or interview.
3. Moon Energy Breath (Chandra Bhedana Pranayama)
- Cooling, refreshing to the body & mind;
- Emphasizes feminine qualities (e.g. introspection, receptivity & intuition) in men or women;
- Reduces heat in the body; effective for those with heartburn, high blood pressure or fever;
- Brings clarity to the mind, body & emotions;
- Useful in reducing the tension, stress and other mental problems.
My Challenge to You:
Commit to practicing one of the following breathing exercises for 5-20 minutes per day, for 40 consecutive days.