Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Elongate the Breath with Four Simple Techniques

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The great sea
Has sent me adrift,
It moves me as the weed in a great river,
Earth and the great weather
Move me,
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts with joy.  – An Eskimo Song

Now that we have created breath awareness and discovered some new ways to expand our breathing vessel, let us address the quality of the breath. This week, I will introduce some simple techniques of pranayama or breath control.

Here are four methods for elongating the breath:

#1 Ujjayi Breathing

This approach can be described as a slight deepening of the normal breath.  It is best done from a supine or seated position in which your body is nicely aligned.  Allow your belly to remain soft and close your eyes.

As you inhale, visualize a stream of air entering the nose and moving along the upper palate to the back of the throat. It will feel as though you are drinking your breath. Allow the exhalations to return along the same path.

In the beginning, it may be helpful to open your mouth slightly. Ujjayi is sometimes characterized by a sound that is similar to that of a scuba diver or Darth Vader. As with any form of pranayama, begin with a few rounds and rest in between. If, at anytime, you feel anxious or agitated, return to your normal breath.

#2 Viloma Pranayama

In this practice, inhalation or exhalation is not a continuous process, but one that is interrupted by several pauses.ladder-632939__180This form of pranayama may be compared to climbing up or down a tall ladder, with a pause at each step.

We will start with the second stage of Viloma pranayama because the exhalation is usually a more natural portion of the breath to extend.

As in all pranayama, gaining control of the breath helps to expand lung capacity, oxygen levels and every other benefit that stems from having enhanced your body’s breathing machine. In particular, by practicing Viloma II, you will gain an unforced, greater access to your exhalations. Which will, in turn, deepen your inhalations.

#3 Sipping Breath Technique

  • Pucker your lips & leave a small opening through which to sip air like a straw.
  • Inhale as long and slowly as you comfortably can.
  • Hold the breath without straining.
  • Open the mouth and forcefully exhale the breath.

Practice this in a round of 5-10 breaths if you feel comfortable.

#4 EEEE Mantra

  • Inhale quickly though your open mouth.
  • Exhale while chanting aloud a strong and persistent EEEEEE sound while smiling.
  • Keep the sound strong, try not to waver and end decisively.
  • Hold the breath as long as comfortable then rest.

Repeat 2 more times.

Please keep in mind that any pranayama practice can cause irritation or anxiousness. If you are affected in this matter, either decrease the number of cycles performed or discontinue the practice altogether. 

Honor Thyself 🙏🏻

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