One of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is Pranayama, or Breathing Techniques. These techniques are used to regulate our life force. They are commonly practiced before a Yoga Asana practice. I will break down 2 of the 6 main Pranayama practices in this article.
Also known as breath of fire, Kapalabhati breath brings the state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. It is made of two words: Kapala, which means forehead, and Bhati, which means shining. This advanced breathing technique warms and energizes the entire body and mind for mental work or Asana practice. When performed before meditation, it removes sensory distractions and sleepiness and prepares the mind for the meditative state. It also balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones the digestive system and the abdominal muscles.
NOTE: DO NOT practice KAPALABHATI breath if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia and gastric ulcers or if you are pregnant or on your menstrual cycle.
To practice Kapalabhati breath, find a comfortable seated position. Inhale through both nostrils and fill the belly with breath, then forcefully contract the abdominals while exhaling out of the nostrils. Try not to strain any other part of the body while you focus on the abdominals. The next inhalation happens directly after the exhale, but passively, then the same forceful exhalation through the nostrils follows. Repeat this round of breath 10 times for 1 round, and then gradually increase the breaths and rounds. If you experience dizziness, stop immediately and rest for a moment.
Also known as Bellows breath, Bhastrika breath increases body heat and purifies the mind. It stimulates the metabolic rate, producing heat and stimulating abdominal & digestive organs and flushes out wastes and toxins. This breathing technique is excellent for lung & throat disorders and inflammation. It balances and strengthens the nervous system and induces peace, tranquility and one-pointedness of the mind in preparation for meditation.
NOTE: DO NOT practice BHASTRIKA breath if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia and gastric ulcers or if you are pregnant or on your menstrual cycle.
To practice Bhastrika breath , take a deep breath in, filling the belly with breath, and then breathe out forcefully, contracting the abdominals. Immediately afterwards breathe in with the same force and continue the forceful inhalation and exhalation, not being too strenuous or violent, for 10 repetitions at a slow pace (2 seconds per breath). Then, Increase the rounds, breath and pace gradually.
Stay tuned next week to learn more about the next two Pranayama practices.