Pranayama is the practice of breath control. Pranayama is an extremely important tool, when practiced in Yoga, which can harness one’s anxiety, reduce stress levels, and control energy flow. At the same time, controlling the flow of “prana” (vital energy), throughout one’s body, is important to maintain one’s emotional stability.
Each of us has been breathing since the day we were born. This practice is so basic, and natural, that we often overlook the power of a breath. Learning to practice pranayama cannot only help your emotions, but can also increase your mental strength and your decision-making process. However, when practicing pranayama, it is best to do so with caution. The more advanced and dynamic pranayama techniques should be practiced with the supervision of an experienced Yoga teacher.
There are many different types of pranayama techniques. Each technique has its own set of benefits. One pranayama technique that helps relax the mind and body is known as Dirgha Pranayama (also known as: three part, sipping, or complete breath). To prepare for this exercise, sit with a straight back or lay down on your back.
Take long, slow, deep breaths, preferably through the nose, keeping them smooth and relaxed. With each breath – focus on relaxing your belly, with each inhale, and deflating a part of the trunk, with each exhale.
The reason English speaking Yoga practitioners commonly call Dirgha: “three part breath,” is the breathing emphasis on a specific area, which focuses on three compartments in the trunk of the body (the navel, solar plexus, and upper chest). When you inhale, you are prompted by your Yoga teacher to expand in one compartment at a time, starting with the navel, and finishing at the highest point in the lungs (upper chest).
If you are a Yoga teacher, it is easier to ask your new students to relax the stomach, than to expand it. Due to improper breathing, beginners have usually never worked on inhaling or exhaling from the bottom of the lungs, but they will have no difficulty expanding at the top, because they are accustomed to breathing only from the top of the lungs.
When students are prompted to exhale, the sequence of emphasis is in the reverse order (upper chest, solar plexus, and navel). The practitioner works on gently collapsing each compartment – one at a time. When emphasis is placed on the navel, it is drawn in toward the spine.
This completes one cycle of three parts inhale and three parts exhale. If you do not have a local Yoga teacher, it would be wise to observe this technique in videos before attempting it. If you are new to Yoga and pranayama, it is advised that you practice this technique slowly and gently.
Dynamic Yoga techniques are often seen on the cover of a magazine, or in a video. Photographs of “circus tricks” have always impressed people. However, the purpose of Dirgha pranayama is medicinal.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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