A Quick & Easy Pranayama Guide|
This isn’t a complete guide by any
means, but will give you some insight into the more commonly explored
Pranayama practices. At the bottom, you’ll find a video that will give
you a sample of what each practice looks, feels and sounds like. I hope
you learn a butt-ton! Now let’s dive in:
A deeply connecting breath that helps to release tension from the belly.
If you sit at a computer all day, chances are you’re a chest breather.
This practice will help you bring awareness to the base of your lungs
while you enjoy a hugely expansive breath. Abdominal breathing is great
for relaxation, focus and a perfect starting point for any Pranayama
practice. With your hands on your belly, breathe deeply, letting your
whole belly soften. Perform lying down or sitting up if that’s more
comfortable for you.
3 Part Breath | Full Yogic Breathing
For this Pranayama, you get both the top, middle and the bottom of the
lungs working. It involves a rolling and steady inhalation and
exhalation, that brings to life the whole breathing system. You can
place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. As you inhale, first
feel your belly rise, then your ribs, then your chest. As you exhale,
it’s the opposite – chest drops, then ribs, then belly. Perform lying
down or sitting up if that’s more comfortable for you (I almost always
opt for lying down!)
Ocean Sounding Breath | Ujjayi
This Pranayama is the one you hear during class when it sounds like
everyone is simultaneously breathing heavily and whispering. The back of
the throat (glottis) is contracted as if you were fogging a mirror, but
with your mouth closed. The inhalation and exhalation are even. Try to
create the sound on both the in and out, keeping balance and building
heat. This practice maintains an even flow of Prana throughout the yoga
practice, builds and maintains heat in the body and is a great audible
sound to connect into.
Kapalabhati Kriya | Shining Skull Breath
This is actually a kriya (cleansing technique) but gets lumped in with
the Prana practices because the breath is used. This practice clears the
sinuses and expands the passages, brings strength to the abdominals and
moves out toxicity and stale air that can sit in the base of the lungs.
It also purifies the blood and boosts the immune system. This is the
practice that uses a strong exhalation from the belly (like a pump) and a
soft, soundless inhalation – all through the nose, never through the
Bhramari Pranayama | Honey Bee Breath
This practice is so simple and soothing. With your mouth closed, you create the buzzing mmm
sound of a bumble bee. With a deep long breath in and steady buzzing
exhalation, you can release negative thoughts and emotions, sooth your
nervous system and bring an overall sense of calm to your whole bod.
This is a very simple and accessible Pranayama that most will find
enjoyable and easy.
Agni Prasana | Breath of Fire
This energising, strong and powerful breath is used in Kundalini yoga
but can also be explored with other yoga practices. Breath of Fire
synchronises all aspects of the subtle and physical body, bringing
balance, releasing anxiety and building immunity – both against disease
and stress. It is even on both the inhalation and exhalation but is very
strong and quick, with the belly pumping in and out to move the air.
This practice is not recommended for beginners, if you’re menstruating
(because it draws energy up while your body is working to expel it), for
pregnant women or anyone feeling light-headed, dizzy or scattered.
Anuloma Viloma | Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is all about balancing the lunar and solar sides of your body,
bringing that uplifting energy into alignment with the calm and
collected one. You’ll see in the video how to use a mudra (hand gesture)
to perform this practice. Using your thumb on the right nostril and
ring finger on the left, you switch back and forth, closing and
releasing. One complete round is as follows: Always begin with an
inhalation through the left, then exhalation out of the right nostril.
Then inhale right and exhale left to complete. Your stress melts away,
concentration is improved, the mind and body are soothed and oxygen
supply is improved (Pranayama rhymes are awesome).
Probably the most fun Pranayama (if it’s even considered a Pranayama).
This practice opens and releases the jaw and tongue, strengthens the
eyes and creates a sense of expansion in the face. The inhalation is
steady, while the exhalation is a borderline growl – the mouth opens
wide, eyes look up toward the third eye and the tongue reaches out and
down toward the chin. Also the most attractive looking of the Prana