How often during your day are you conscious of how you breathe? Stressful situations can often find us holding our breath or breathing in a shallow rhythm. But the way we breathe affects our whole body. We asked our yoga expert Michaela Olexova from The Baoli to explain the ancient practice of Pranayama.
Pranayama (or a controlled breath) is like your best friend. It's there for you when you most need it, whether it's to energise, de-stress, improve your concentration or control your emotions. Not only does correct breathing have enormous physical health benefits, it also has a huge positive influence on your mental wellbeing and helps you deal with stresses of today's busy lifestyle.
It is therefore so important for all of us to learn the basics of a proper breathing which is primarily governed by the movement of the diaphragm. Your aim is to inhale deeply, drawing the fresh air in through your nose into your abdomen and into your lungs while your chest expends. The strong and energising inhalation is then followed by a long controlled exhalation, pushing the stale air out of your lungs and getting rid of the toxic waste.
With your mental focus and control, pranayama should create a beautiful movement in your body which I often compare to ocean waves. A rhythm that establishes peace in your physical as well as mental and emotional self. To help you reach this state there are number of yogic breathing exercises at hand but one of the essential ones that to me also has a wonderful meditative properties is Anuloma Viloma or Alternate Breathing Exercise.
The principal of Anuloma Viloma is to alternate your breath through right and left nostrils balancing the cool and hot energies within your system with a focus on exhalation which is twice as long as inhalation. As there are several techniques of this Pranayama, I am going to introduce you to the basic exercise. Try the sequence below...
- Begin with the right hand in the Vishnu Mudra position - bend the middle and index fingers into the palm and use the little and ring fingers to close your left nostril and the thumb to close the right nostril.
- Close the right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril on a count of four.
- Close your left nostril and release the right one, exhaling fully on a count of eight.
- Inhale through the right nostril to a count of four deeply.
- Close your right and release the left nostril, exhaling completely to a count of eight to complete the first round.
- Repeat the same sequence at least 10 rounds daily to receive its full benefits
Read more from Michaela Olexova at The Baoli