Daily Routines for Optimal Health – Breathing Techniques Pranayama
By Vanita Dahia
Daily routines that can improve your health dramatically
Allocation of about 15 minutes in the morning to perform the daily routines can make a profound difference to your health, energy and mood.
Upon rising, perform
Rhythmic control of breath
The mental benefits
Helps you relax and handle stressful situations easily. Teaches you to quieten the mind so you can focus your energy where you want it to go –on the tennis court or golf course or in the office. Encourages positive thoughts, self acceptance and self confidence and cleanses the body. Ideal to learn to “still the mind” in times of stress.
The spiritual benefits
Builds awareness of the body, feelings, the world around and the needs of others and empathy with nature. Promotes interdependence between mind, body and spirit. Helps you live the concept of “oneness.”
How controlled breathing works
When we inhale, it is not only the air or oxygen that enters our body, but along with the air also enters a divine energy which keeps the body alive.
Doing pranayama does not mean only taking the air in the body (inhalation) and throwing it out (exhalation), but along with oxygen, we also take in our body the Vital Energy. This Vital Energy permeates the entire universe and what we inhale and exhale is the fragment of it.
Physiology teaches us that the oxygen, we breathe fills our lungs, spreads in the entire body (internal and external including neurons, veins and arteries) providing it with essential food, energy, oxygen and gentle massage.
Not only that the veins collect the gross elements form the body, take them to heart and then to the lungs, which throws the useless material like carbon-dioxide and other fatal toxins out of the body through the act of exhalation.
Through breathing techniques, our neuro-endocrine system balances limbic-hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis and becomes strong and precise. As a result our stress hormones – ACTH, cortisol and prolactin and adrenaline and noradrenaline go down, and good hormones like beta endorphins and encephalins, etc., go up. As a result stress-related start reversing.
Breathing techniques arouse the internal energy of a person and makes them healthy, balanced and active.
The whole process can take from 10 to 45 minutes. This practice is best performed first thing in the morning.
Sit upright in a comfortable position, keep the neck and head absolutely straight. The body should be stable and spine should be straight. Now you are ready to start.
Your Nine Step Brain Gym
When doing these breathing exercises, ensure that your mind is totally focused ONLY on your breath visualising in-breath nourishing your mind and body with vital universal energy and out-breath expelling all the toxins of the mind and body.
Start with two minutes of each exercise daily increasing slowly to five minutes of each exercise.
You take your body to the gym – This breathing technique, if practised daily, is your own brain gym benefiting your mind and body!
1. Deep Breathing – lungs
Breathe in through both the nostrils forcefully, till the lungs are full and diaphragm is stretched. Then breathe out forcefully through nostrils. Take deep breaths and then completely breathe out.
2. Panting Dog
Breathe in through both the nostrils forcefully, till the lungs are full and abdomen is extended, diaphragm is stretched. Extend your tongue like a panting dog, and breathe out forcefully through your mouth. It is important to ensure that you breathe out forcefully and your abdomen is contracted upon exhalation. Much like you are being punched in the stomach. In this way, you are whipping the stomach and panting loudly and forcefully though the mouth.
This exercise is useful to regulate bowel function, digestion, purify the blood by increasing oxygenation to the cells, and detox the body using your breath.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sitting straight, focusing only on your breath, position your right hand thumb for your right nostril, three fingers on left nostril and index finger on the forehead. Visualise your in-breath travelling from right brain to left brain and down left side of body and vice versa upon exhalation.
Process: With right hand in position, (thumb released) breath in through the right nostril to the count of two (both nostrils closed), and exhale through the left nostril (three fingers released). To be done by closing the nostrils one after another, close the right nostril by the right hand thumb, and likewise close the left nostril by the second and third fingers keep the palm of the hand in front just above the nose.
Prana breathed in through the left nostril represents energy of the moon, which symbolises peace, and has a cooling effect. Close the right side nostril with the right hand thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril until the lungs are filled. Then close the left nostril with the second and third fingers. Open the right nostril and exhale through it.
Repeat this exercise slowly in the beginning, and with practice, increase the speed.
When you are able to practice this exercise for a long time, inhale with as much force as is possible for you, then exhale also forcefully.
It is said that this breathing exercise when practiced regularly will awaken the Kundalini.
There is a feeling that the whole body is being enlightened by a divine light. Imagine that the supreme power is showering divine energy and divine knowledge, that the supreme power is filling you with divine energy.
Repeat this exercise increasing counts to three, then four, and so on.
This exercise balances left and right brain. The same principals are used in components of Buteyko Breathing and useful in Asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis and Congestive Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
4. 3-locks Breath
Breathe in through the nose. Upon exhalation, squeeze your chin to your chest and pull in the stomach squeezing all the internal organs as much as you can and pull up the pelvic floor. Keep exhalation (no breath) for as long as you can. Release chin by lifting the head and release the stomach contraction as you breathe in.
5. 3 locks Breath in Reverse
Inhale deeply, hold the breath, apply chin lock by lowering the chin and join it with the pit of the throat, abdominal by bending forward a little and press hands on the knees for leverage. Contract the abdomen and draw it in all the way to the back. Apply pelvic floor contraction by pulling up the pelvis and hold it up there.
Still holding the breath and the three locks in place, bend forward slightly and pull the abdominal organs as far up as you can, straighten the trunk, holding it as long as you comfortably can. When you are ready to release, bend again, release the abdominal lock and the abdominal organs (while raising the chin to exhale).
6. Alternate nostril breathing with 3-Lock
Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale very slowly from the left nostril. Upon completion of inhaling, hold the breath in and apply the chin lock, abdominal lock and pelvic floor lock.
Release the chin lock and very slowly exhale from the right nostril. Upon completion of exhaling, inhale very slowly from the right nostril and hold the breath in with chin lock and root lock in place. When ready to release, exhale very slowly from the left nostril.
7. Humming Bee
Close ears with thumb, index finger on forehead, and remaining three fingers closing the eyes lightly.
Breathe in, as you exhale, breathe out through the nose while humming like a bee. Ensure that you hum loudly and forcefully. Visualise the activation of various parts of the brain. This exercise clears the head space and awakens you.
8. Beetle Hum
Breathe in and out with the nose only. Close the ears with your thumbs, place index fingers just above the eyebrows at the sinuses and the remaining three fingers on the eyes with finger tips slightly pressing the ridge of the nose on each side. Inhale deeply and while exhaling make a humming sound like that of the black beetle. Say “Om’ in a soft humming sound while making the humming sound.
It is better to do soft humming that gently reverberates in the sinuses and the skull rather than powerful vibration.
9. Chanting “Om”
Inhalation and exhalation should be long, slow, soft and subtle. Inhale slowly and when ready to exhale, chant “Om” slowly and steadily. With practice, lengthen each breath to one-minute, that is, to say inhalation and exhalation should total one-minute of time. Visualize the breath entering and moving inside the body with “O” starting at the GUT and “M” travelling to the head ending in a hum.
End the practice with meditation and awareness of soft and slow inhalation and exhalation and the sound of “Om.”
When you end your practice with soft, slow and equalized breathing, you minimize the chances of ending your practice with too much carbon dioxide or too little oxygen (hypoxia) in your system.