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The Power of Pranayama Breathing

Have you heard of Pranayama Breathing?

The practice of pranayama breathing known as Nadi Shodhana is one of the most powerful and simple breathwork techniques available to us.

Today, I want to share with you a yogic practice that has dramatically improved my overall health and my general sense of well-being. What is this mystical practice of the yogis all about?

Well, in the most simple terms Pranayama is breathing. More specifically, it is breathwork that teaches us how to breathe in a particular fashion or with a specific technique to affect the transportation of prana throughout the body. It is a little bit like meditation, but it has a far more active approach.

What is Prana?

Prana is the ancient yogic term for energy or “life-force.” The reason we use specific breathing techniques to stimulate this “life-force” is to create balance in the body. Energy in the human body is much like dark energy/matter in astrophysics. We can sense it, but we don’t really know as much as we need to about it.

What we do know is that when this human “life-force” energy gets blocked, constricted, or flows inefficiently, we end up with chronic pain and illness. Along with a whole host of other issues across our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual forms. 

So how do we get it moving again? 

According to the ancient yogic sages, there are specific breathing techniques that everyone can use to alleviate these issues and today, I am going to share one of my favorites with you!

Nadi Shodhana (Pranayama Breathing Practice)

Or Alternate Nostril Breathing

This yogic terminology translates as “subtle energy clearing breathing technique.” It is a simple technique that can be executed from a seated position on the floor, or even in a chair if you have trouble sitting cross legged. 

The Beginner’s Form

For beginner’s I suggest starting with the simplest form of pranayama breathing and that is as follows:

      • Get comfortable and ensure that your spine is erect or straight. (Cross legged seating on a cushion is best, but a chair works well)

      • Take a Deep inhale through the nose, fully filling the lungs. Count the seconds of the inhale.

      • Hold for two seconds.

      • Exhale through your mouth. Attempt to force out all of the breath over a time-span of double your inhale. So if you inhaled for four seconds, exhale slowly for eight seconds.

      • Repeat this process for a minimum of three times. (This is a yogic cleansing breath).

      • Bring your dominant hand to your nose and close off the nostril on that side.

      • Inhale through the open nostril and fill your lungs.

      • Hold your breath for two seconds.

      • Release the closed nostril and switch to the opposite side. 

      • Exhale the breath through the open nostril.

      • Hold the Breath for two Seconds.

      • Repeat Steps 5 through 11 as many times as you like. I recommend a minimum of seven times for each of the seven energetic vortices or chakras. 

    What is occurring as we do this ancient breathwork technique?

    This is a basic format of Nadi Shodanna Pranayama, but it is quite effective and it can have startlingly remarkable results. Not only does this practice help us alleviate anxiety, chronic pain, and lessen the effects of depression, but it also helps relax the parasympathetic nervous system. 

    How does it do this? 

    For one, it forces the brain to merge both hemispheres to work together by increasing oxygen to the cerebral tissues and helping to lower blood pressure and quiet the mind. 

    What are the benefits of this basic form of breathwork?

        • Improves our ability to focus the mind

        • Supports our lungs and respiratory functions

        • Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels

        • Rejuvenates the nervous system

        • Removes toxins

        • Settles stress

      Safety Precautions

      Practicing alternate nostril breath is safe for most people. If you have any medical conditions regarding your lungs or circulatory system talk to your doctor before starting the practice. Example conditions such as asthma, COPD, or any other lung or heart concern.

      If you feel any adverse effects, such as shortness of breath, while doing the breathing technique, you should stop the practice immediately. This includes feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous. Listen to your body.

      This practice can bring up feelings of agitation or trigger an emotional response. If any mental or physical symptoms persist, you should stop the practice. Always listen to your body.

      If you have any questions about this basic pranayama breathing exercise feel free to reach out to me!

      The Author
      Christopher Lee
      Christopher Lee

      Author, Mindfulness Coach, Podcaster

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