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Pranayama & Breath Work

What is Breath work? Breath work is another terms for conscious breathing. Proper breathing is one effective way to store and accumulate vital Life Force energy within the body. Conscious breathing is also a great way to check in with your body and mind, which helps us stay present in our lives. Breath work has been significant and used since antiquity. In Ancient Kemet, the importance of breath and its life giving force can be seen in the creation story of Shu, Geb and Nut. According to Egyptian mythology, Shu was the god of air and of sunlight and represented a life-giving breath. In this function, he is seen by mythology as separating heaven from Earth. The 3 Part Breath - Deep Yogic Breathing - Dirgha Pranayama The 3 parts are the abdomen, diaphragm and chest. "Inhale air into the belly. Inhale and push the abdomen out, then without releasing the breath, again inhale a little deeper feeling in the lungs in the chest area, and again without releasing the breath and how deep are still feeling the area of the lungs under the shoulders. With this last inhalation, his shoulder should rise up a little, naturally. Control your exhalation so that it is soft and smooth, and twice the time it took for the inhalation. Exhale first by releasing the shoulders and letting the air out from the top of the lungs, and then release the chest And let the air out from the middle lung area, and finally pull the abdomen in expelling all remaining air from the lungs. Repeat. This deep breathing technique allows you to take up approximately 5 times the oxygen and life force energy than the normal breath, thus revitalizing and cleansing the body and mind and balancing the emotions (through the serpent power system)." -Dr. Muata Ashby

Alternate Nostril Breathing - Brings balancing energy to mind and body Two poles in the body, the solar and lunar poles. When these poles are out of balance, various mental, physical and emotional problems can arise. Uatchet - Solar breathing, through the right nostril, heats the body and is useful for the presence of disease within the body and physical activity. If there is illness, the left nostril should be blocked off for given periods time. When falling asleep, one should sleep on the left side of the body in order to cause the breath to flow through the right nostril. Masculine side of the body. Nekhebet - Lunar breathing, through the left nostril, cools the body. If there is nervous energy or anxiety, block the right nostril and take deep, long inhalations until you feel relaxed and calm. Feminine side of the body. Alternate Nostril Breathing balances both Solar & Lunar channels, therefore creating balancing energy in the mind and body. What is Pranayama? Pranayama is the art of breathing. “Prana” is life force and cosmic energy and “yama” means regulation or restraint. With practice, pranayama can allow you to control your mind which can lead to a emotional stability, focused concentration and a meditative state. The practice of breath work is to control the motion of the lungs, by which pranayama is controlled. When we concentrate and consciously regulate our breathing, we are able to generate and store a great amount of prana and energy. Pranayama was introduced to the Indian civilization through Patanjali’s "Yoga Sutras” and was a meditation practice. In this practice, we take our natural breathing and expand it into long and slow inhalation, then exhalation, followed by a natural pause called a “Stamba.” When the breath is still, the mind will become still, and it is in this stillness that we are able to reach transcendence. According to BKS Iyengar, “Slower breath leads to longevity.” Breathing exercises are the practice to purify and strengthen the physical body, as well as to calm the mind. Steady practice of pranayama arouses the inner spiritual force and brings joy, spiritual light and peace of mind. Nadis - Each nostril is connected to a specific Nadi (which is Sanskrit for river or flow) is a center for subtle panic energy within the body. Ida - Feminine, lunar, creative, Shakti, it runs energetically down the left side of the spinal cord, and impacts the right hemisphere of the brain. Left nostril dominant breathing activates the Parasympathetic nervous system, the state that you enter during a great relaxing savasana. Pingala - Masculine, solar, analytical, Shiva, When we draw breath in the through the right nostril, it activates the left hemisphere of our brain. This part of our brain is associated with our Sympathetic Nervous System – which in charge our ‘fight or flight response. Sushumna - Runs along the center spine, from top to bottom The yogis observed that the dominance of each nostril fluctuates many times during the day according to the activities that we are doing. Too much prana in the right nostril, may well be responsible for a decline in creativity, and too much prana in the left nostril, may be the cause of a lack of focus. Breathing Exercises for Beginners Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana - creates balance in the body by harmonizing the right and left hemisphere of the brain creating equanimity in your mental, emotional and physical well-being. It infuses the body with oxygen, clears and releases toxins, helps to balance hormones, mental clarity and reduces stress and anxiety. Beginning in Vishnu Mudra, (Fold the tips of the index and middle fingers inward until they touch the palm at the base of the right thumb) Place the thumb on your right nostril to close it, and inhale through the left nostril filling the belly with air Gently hold the breath, while simultaneously lifting the thumb and placing the ring and pinky finger on the left nostril and then exhale through the right nostril Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale once again through the right nostril Gently hold the breath, while simultaneously lifting the ring and pinky finger on the left nostril and placing the thumb on the right nostril and then exhale through the left nostril Ujjayi Breathing or Victorious Breath - This is an ancient yogic breathing technique that will simultaneously relax and energize your mind and body all while empowering your Hatha Yoga practice. Also known as Ocean breath because of the sound that is created. The voice of Darth Vader. A great technique to help get you started is to exhale into your palm with your mouth open, as if you are steaming up a mirror. Gradually close your mouth while continuing to make that ocean / Darth Vader sound. Sitali - means “soothing” or “cooling” in Sanskrit. Sitali is used to cool and sooth the body and is great to use when one feels hot or over heated. For this breathing exercise, you roll your tongue up like a straw (or taco) and breath through it. Breath of Fire or Kapalabhati Breath - a breathing technique that comes from Kundalini Yoga and that also creates heat within the body and can also raise the kundalini energy from the base of the spine to the crown. You do Breath of Fire by bringing your navel towards your spine as you exhale sharply and releasing it as you inhale. You want to create a fast, tight motion with your abdomen, bringing your belly button towards your spine. Also great for digestion and solar plexus chakra. ***This breathing exercise shouldn’t be done by women menstruating, pregnant woman, people struggling with vertigo, people having high blood pressure or children.

Lion’s breath - To perform this breathing technique, you get into simhasana, or lion pose and do forceful exhalations. Lion’s breath is well known by yogis to reduce stress and anger. Box Breathing - Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale slowly for 4 counts, (repeat 4-5x) 3-6-9 Breathing - Inhale for 3 counts, hold for 6 counts exhale for 9 counts, (repeat 3-5x) Sources: Light on Pranayama The Yogic Art of Breathing by BKS Iyengar Sadhana Yoga School

Opening to Spirit by Shola Arewa Egyptian Yoga Postures of the Gods and Goddesses by Drs. Muata and Karen Ashby

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