In a very busy world, most of us are lost in a myriad of activities from watching TV, keeping eyes on the children, planning for work and making food for the family. It is not any better outside the house as you may plan your day while commuting to work, listening to the radio and then start planning how to spend the evening or weekend on the way back. The rush to accomplish daily tasks can make one lose connection with the present.
While you may believe that you have to do most of the things that occupy your daily life, long term meditators, yogis, non-yogis, and short term dabblers agree that meditation enhances focus. In fact, studies have shown that mindful breathing can help one get into the present and provide a lot of benefits. The benefits can range from calming the brain, boosting energy, improving brain function, reducing stress, keeping the brain youthful, promotion of self-control, patience and focus among other benefits. The following are some of the most effective Yoga practices for mindful breathing.
Breath of Fire?
Breath of Fire also known as Kapalbhati Pranayama is rhythmic breathing that emphasizes both the exhale and inhale and is no deeper than sniffing. It is done by exhaling while pushing the navel towards the spine and then releasing on the inhale. It is best done through the nostrils with the eyes and mouth closed. When done right you can go on definitely, which is why it is one of the keys to higher consciousness.
It can be great when you are feeling disconnected to your inner power as it will quickly result in greater peace of mind, calmness, and focus. You will feel more energized and block out all negative energies from outside as it gets you centred much more quickly, given that it is so simple.
Benefits of the Breath of Fire
- It Calms the Mind – Proper breathing will make you more relaxed and as such regular practice of Breath of Fire will cleanse your diaphragm and lungs. It will also be more relaxing and make your breathing easier. This will help to keep you naturally calm.
- Strengthens the Core – The practice helps exercise the abdomen and hence increases physical endurance. This can help you become a more well-rounded yoga practitioner.
- Detoxes the Body – It has a cleansing effect through the better circulation of blood around the body. It can thus be effective at fighting addiction by cleansing the body of toxins such as caffeine alcohol, drugs, and sugar.
- Provides Pain Relief – Through the elimination of toxins, it does help relax the body and mind while also soothing aching muscles and reducing pain. It can also help ease chronic pain and help one relax following strenuous exercise.
- Promotes Mental Health – According to research, Breath of Fire when done regularly can be effective at fighting depression and anxiety, can lower stress, and help reduce negative emotions.
- Improves Cognitive Function – Kapalhabati is one of the most effective practices that will help improve cognitive function within a few weeks of starting. This is because it improves blood flow to your brain ensuring the neurons have all the oxygen they need thus boosting cognitive function.
Lions Breath also is known as lion pose or Simhasana is a pranayama or breathing technique that promotes mindful breathing. It includes forceful exhalation which makes it a very powerful breathing method known for reducing anger and stress by actively releasing tension through breathing. It gets its name from the lion-like fierce expression that you adopt and the roaring sound that is produced when performing the pranayama. It typically allows for the engagement of all three bandhas during the exhale.
Benefits of the Lions’ Breath Pranayama
- The roar pose helps relieve tension in the neck, jaw, face, and chest
- The Simhasana stimulates a thin, flat rectangular-shaped muscle in front of the throat known as the platysma. When that muscle is contracted it works the wrinkles on the skin of the neck and the corners of the mouth firming them up.
- The traditional texts assert that the pranayama works the Uddiyana, Jalandhara, and the Mula, the three major bandhas thus facilitating the destruction of disease in the body.
- It is a great stress reliever as it allows you to act and look silly in the lion pose, which helps relax your mind from the stress of daily life.
- It helps boost your confidence by opening the throat chakras.
- It helps prepare you for yoga asana as it is a warming breath
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing also is known in Sanskrit as Nadi Shodhana is a powerful yet simple technique that helps to calm the body, mind or emotions. It may be done as part of meditation practise or yoga, where it is very effective at calming and quieting the mind. It can be done right before you get into meditation practice and is particularly effective at reducing stress, anxiety, racing thoughts and promoting better sleep.
The Nadi Shodhana comes in several variations but they all work to regulate and balance the airflow through the nostrils. In fact, the name literally means clearing the channels of circulation in Sanskrit.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Helps Improve Respiratory Health – The slow deep breathing technique of the pranayama helps you access the full capacity of the lungs. This helps to enhance and balance out the respiratory and pulse rate, get rid of stale air and over the long term, it has also been shown to improve other markers of pulmonary health.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health – The Nadi Shuddi mindful breathing technique helps to reduce your diastolic and systolic blood pressure. The reason for this is that it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system that resulting in a widening and relaxation of the blood vessels.
- Reduce Anxiety and Stress – Helps bring balance to the right and left hemispheres of the brain as it brings the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems into equilibrium. This can be great if you are dealing with anxiety as it has been shown to have an almost immediate effect on parasympathetic markers.
- Reduces Rumination and Worry – The Nadi Shuddhi practice emphasizes breathing and hence it helps bring the wandering mind back to the present to reduce worry and rumination. It takes one of the most powerful and basic aspects of mindful breathing and directs awareness of the flow of breath.
- Helps you Prepare for Advanced Pranayama – Over the years you develop odd breathing patterns due to exposure to pollutants, bad posture, and years of stress among others. This can manifest through unequal exhale/inhale patterns, belly breathing and shortness of breath. Alternate nostril breathing helps to correct such bad habits making breathing more efficient and smooth.
Ujjayi which means victorious breathing has been one of the most fundamental and pranayamas that have been used for years in hatha yoga practice. It has also been sometimes called oceanic breath given the sound you produce when synchronizing movements with breath as you do the pranayama.
To do Ujjayi breathing, you constrict the back of the throat just like you would when you intend to whisper. As such, the Ujjayi is an audible breather often compared to the roar of the ocean. While you will typically constrict the throat while doing the pranayama, the breath will flow in and out from the nostrils while the lips stay closed.
Benefits of Ujjayi Breathing
- Enhances Concentration – During the physical practice, Ujjayi helps improve concentration as it makes one be absorbed into the practice by allowing pone to stay in poses for longer.
- Fosters Endurance – The pranayama lends a meditative quality to enhance practice which helps maintain rhythm in class.
- Promotes Awareness – It helps to keep you self-aware by diminishing distractions and keeping you grounded in the practice.
- Regulates Body Temperature – The breath technique helps regulate body heat. There is friction as the air passes through the throat and lungs which generates heat that is akin to getting a massage for the internal organs. The body will get ready for asana practice as the core warms from the friction of the air passing through. The heat makes stretching easier and safer even as the deep breathing cleans out toxin accumulation.
- Releases Tension – The pranayama helps to remove the rightness from the body and also releases tension.
- Provides Pain Relief – The Ujjayi pranayama is effective at reducing pain from sinus pressure, headaches, decreases phlegm, and strengthens the digestive and nervous system.
- Promotes Honest Practice – When you are practicing Ujjayi it tells you when you need to surrender and get into a resting pose. The reasoning for this is that you need to maintain smooth and even breathe in the pose as you rest. This promotes honest practice making it possible to develop in the pranayama.
- Helps to Prepare for Physical Practice – Practicing full deep breaths makes it easier to tackle the challenges of physical practice.
Mindful breathing has been used for centuries to train the human mind all across the world. The practice makes it possible to balance and take control of your thoughts and awareness thus enhancing the effectiveness of the session. When you learn to control and listen to your breath, it can be a teacher that guides you in all manner of ways. Ancient yogis realized that there is an intimate connection between the human mind and breath and incorporated it into practice. Practice one or two of these pranayamas and you should start getting some of the myriad benefits in no time.