Breathing is important for two reasons. It is the only means
to supply our bodies and its various organs with the supply of oxygen
which is vital for our survival. The second function of breathing is
that it is one means to get rid of waste products and toxins from the
Oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. It is essential for
the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. We can
do without food for weeks and without water for days, but without oxygen,
we will die within a few minutes. If the brain does not gets proper
supply of this essential nutrient, it will result in the degradation
of all vital organs in the body. Oxygen is critical to our well-being,
and any effort to increase the supply of oxygen to our body and especially
to the brain will pay rich dividends.
is so simple and so obvious we often take it for granted, ignoring the
power it has to affect body, mind and spirit. With each inhale we bring
oxygen into the body and spark the transformation of nutrients into
fuel. Each exhale purges the body of carbon dioxide, a toxic waste.
Breathing also affects our state of mind. It can make us excited or
calm, tense or relaxed. It can make our thinking confused or clear.
the vital importance of an adequate oxygen supply, the Ancient Yogis
developed and perfected various controlled breathing techniques called
Pranayama to maximize the benefits of Prana or Universal
is used in yoga as a separate practice to help clear and cleanse the
body and mind. It is also used in preparation for meditation, and in
asana, the practice of postures, to help maximize the benefits of the
practice and focus the mind.
several of the most commonly used forms of pranayama.
Ujjayi is often called the "sounding"
breath or "ocean sounding" breath, and somewhat irreverently
as the "Darth Vader" breath. It involves opening the back
of the throat while breathing to create an "ah" sound.
Focuses the mind
Generates internal heat
How to do it
1. Come into a comfortable seated position with your spine erect, or
lie down on your back. Visualize lifting you belly towards you chin
and begin by taking long, slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils.
2. Allow the breath to be gentle and relaxed as you lower the tongue
and open the back of the throat creating a steady "Darth Vader"
sound as you breathe in and out. The sound need not be forced, but it
should be loud enough so that if someone came close to you they would
3. Lengthen the inhalation and the exhalation as much as possible without
creating tension anywhere in your body, and allow the sound of the breath
to be continuous and smooth.
To help create the proper "ah" sound, hold your hand up to
your mouth and exhale as if trying to fog a mirror. Inhale the same
way. Notice how you opent the back of the throat to create the fog effect.
Now close your mouth and do the same thing while breathing through the
When to do it
During asana practice
Anytime you want to concentrate
Known as the "complete" or "three-part" breath,
dirgha pranayama teaches how to fill the three chambers of the lungs,
beginning with the lower lungs, then moving up through the thoracic
region and into the clavicular region.
Promotes proper diaphragmatic breathing, relaxes the mind and body,
oxygenates the blood and purges the lungs of residual carbon dioxide.
to do it
Sit with your spine erect, or lie down on your back. Begin taking long,
slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils.
1. As you inhale, allow the belly to fill with air, drawing air deep
into the lower lungs. As you exhale, allow the belly to deflate like
a balloon. Repeat several times, keeping the breath smooth and relaxed,
and never straining. Repeat several times.
2. Breathe into your belly as in Step #1, but also expand the mid-chest
region by allowing the rib cage to open outward to the sides. Exhale
and repeat several times.
3. Follow steps #1 and #2 and continue inhaling by opening the clavicular
region or upper chest. Exhale and repeat.
4. Combine all three steps into one continuous or complete flow.
to do it
During asana practice
Prior to meditation
Prior to relaxation
Anytime you feel like it
Nadi Shodhana, or the sweet breath, is simple form of alternate
nostril breathing suitable for beginning and advanced students. Nadi
means channel and refers to the energy pathways through which prana
flows. Shodhana means cleansing -- so Nadi Shodhana means channel cleaning.
Calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right
hemispheres, promotes clear thinking
How to do it
* Hold your right hand up and curl your index and middle fingers toward
your palm. Place your thumb next to your right nostril and your ring
finger and pinky by your left. Close the left nostril by pressing gently
against it with your ring finger and pinky, and inhale through the right
nostril. The breath should be slow, steady and full.
* Now close the right nostril by pressing gently against it with your
thumb, and open your left nostril by relaxing your ring finger and pinky
and exhale fully with a slow and steady breath.
* Inhale through the left nostril, close it, and then exhale through
the right nostril. That's one complete round of Nadi Shodhana --
* Inhale through the right nostril
* Exhale through the left
* Inhale through the left
* Exhale through the right. Begin with 5-10 rounds and add more as you
feel ready. Remember to keep your breathing slow, easy and full.
When to do it
Just about any time and any where. Try it as a mental warm-up before
meditation to help calm the mind and put you in the mood. You can also
do it as part of your centering before beginning an asana or posture
routine. Also try it at times throughout the day. Nadi Shodhana helps
control stress and anxiety. If you start to feel stressed out, 10 or
so rounds will help calm you down. It also helps soothe anxiety caused
by flying and other fearful or stressful situations.