The ancient yogis worked intimately with their breath for purification, relaxation and meditation. This practice is called pranayama, a Sanskrit word meaning “expansion of life force.” Following are three of our favorite pranayama exercises that you can use any time of day.
Keep in mind: These exercises should not be forced—they should not create strain or discomfort. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, slow or stop completely.
Ujjayi Breath—Victorious Breath
“Ujjayi” means victory or success—victory over emotional or mental states. Start by “fogging a mirror,” so pretending that you are exhaling through your mouth to create fog on an imaginary mirror. After identifying this sound made by a slight constriction in the back of the throat, then repeat this sound inhaling and exhaling with mouth closed. (Some people practice with the exhale twice and long and the inhale; others practice as equal length.) Repeat as long as you like; even a few breaths can calm your mind and body. Try it (softly) while you are waiting in line at the grocery store!
Benefits: Inner peace, calms mind and emotions, clears phlegm, reduces anxiety, regulates body temperature.
Inhale through your nose, place the fingertips of your index fingers over the flaps of your ears to close them. Keep fingers in ears as you hum until you are out of breath. 5-20 times. (Try “moving” the sound around in your head.) This is a quick fix for a temper tantrum. It feels wonderful!
Benefits: Clears mind, creates inner focus, extends exhalation, awakens inner sound, benefits brain.
Nadishodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
Bring your index finger and middle finger on bridge of nose. Place your thumb on right nostril, inhale through left. Close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb to exhale through right nostril Inhale through right nostril and exhale through left. This is one round. Begin with 6 rounds. It’s nice to focus on a light in your third eye (center of forehead).
Benefits: Calming, balancing, oxygenates the blood, cleanses major energy channels