Many of us try to find a perfect morning practice that can ground, energize, focus and prepare us for the rest of the day. It’s hard to imagine that when Yoga started being popularized in the West, the most important part of the personal practice was Pranayama. The benefits of Pranayam, or working with the breath, are numerous, and adding a breathing practice to a daily routine can do wonders. It has been said in the yoga community that if you can breathe you can do yoga. It was believed that controlling your breath means controlling your mind. These Pranayama techniques added to your daily routine can help you lower the heart rate and blood pressure, as well as release anxiety and ease tension. Morning practice of these three Pranayama exercises will take you about 10 minutes. Think of it as taking 10 minutes to feel more grounded during the day, having more energy and feeling better in your body!
1. Dirga Pranayama (Three-Part Breath)
This breath is the easiest way to bring your attention back to your body, relax and get the oxygen flowing in your blood. You can practice this breath anywhere, anytime to calm your nervous system.
- Start by finding a comfortable seat or lying down on the ground.
- Connect to your natural flow of breath for a few moments.
- Breathing in through your nose feel your breath expand the belly.
- Keep inhaling, guiding your breath into the middle lungs, expanding the ribs.
- Lastly, breath into the upper lungs, lifting up the collar bone.
- Exhale through the nose in the same order, emptying the lower lungs first, then the middle and at last breathing out your upper lungs.
- Feeling all three parts of your body and keep guiding the breath following your attention to each part.
- Keep the breath relaxed and calm. Repeat for 10 breaths.
2. Kapalabhati (Shining Skull Breath)
Kapalabhati practice is the best alternative to espresso in the morning. It can energize the body, move out the stale energy and strengthen diaphragm muscles.
- Start in a comfortable seat.
- Take a few cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Inhale, filling in your belly, expanding it outwards.
- Breathing out forcefully push out the breath through your nose, pulling the navel in and emptying the lungs.
- Allow the inhale to come naturally, letting your belly expand.
- Continue pushing out the breath and drawing in the navel with each exhalation.
- Continue for 11 rounds of breath.
- After the last round close your eyes and relax into your natural flow of breath.
- If you’re comfortable with the practice you can increase the number for breaths per round to 22, 33, 44 etc. breaths
3. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing)
This practice naturally balances the left and right sides of the human brain and the respective energies, active yang and passive, receptive yin. This pranayama will purify your channels and restore a balance in your body.
- Find your comfortable sit.
- Start by taking a few deep, smooth breaths into both of the nostrils and out both of the nostrils.
- Resting your index and middle finger on your third eye, or in the space between your eyebrows, block the right nostril with your thumb and inhale the left nostril for 4 seconds.
- Block the left nostril with your ring and pinkie fingers and exhale the air out the right nostril for 8 seconds.
- Inhale the right nostril for 4 seconds.
- Block the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through the left for 8 seconds. That’s one full round of your Nadi Shodhana breath.
- Repeat for 5 rounds. If the 4:8 second ratio is too much for you, you can inhale for 2 and exhale for 4 or inhale for 3 and exhale for 6. Find a rhythm that works well and is sustainable for you.
Please keep in mind that more advanced Pranayama is best practiced under a supervision of a teacher or a guru. Practice these basic Pranayama techniques, so you get comfortable with them. Only when you feel ready increase the number of breaths or rounds. Be kind to yourself, and go at your own pace.
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Photo: Le Minh Phuong via Unsplash