I'll never forget the classical pranayama (breath stretching) course I took nearly a decade into my yoga studies. It changed my internal and external landscape of my breath for good. By definition pranayama means "to control your life force." More specifically prana means the energy that resides within your heart beat and breath. It is that which animates you. When you can control your prana you can do great things like calm an intensely emotional mind to have the courage to send that hard to send email out to go into that deep back bend without fear.
What I've learned from my practice and teaching experience is students are ready to begin pranayama practice when they can practice savasana, deep relaxation with a calm and mindful mind. Meaning they're not dozing off to sleep rather they are in the moment noticing themselves in their environment.
Practicing savasana where you're reclining on an incline, meaning a combination of a bolster and blocks are elevating your upper body from the waist up is a great place to start studying your breath. Here you can notice the waves and texture of your natural inhale and exhale. When you notice your natural breath with ease then ujjayi breath, the ocean breath can be introduced. Here your mouth is gently closed as you inhale and exhale out through your nose. You will hear a whispery oceanic sound being formed from the back of your throat. When you inhale your lower ribs move away from your hip points, followed by the mid ribs and then the upper chest is activated as you fill it up with air from the bottom up. When you exhale the chest doesn't cave in rather it remains broad and open.
Viloma breath, breath with pauses is perfect to study once practicing ujjayi breath is understood. When you practice viloma breath typically 3 pauses are exercised first during an exhale, then during the inhalation and finally during both. This teaches the student how to direct their breath into specific areas of the chest. Here you learn to connect to the subtle placement of your breath. Hence developing steadiness, control and inwardness.
If you can please join me tomorrow June 5th at 1:30pm and every Friday in June at www.bamboomovesyoga.com in Englewood, NJ for my Need a Break to Breathe? Summer Pranayama Classes. Tomorrow's focus is Ujjayi and Viloma Breathwork.