If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you may have experienced a period when the instructor asked you to focus on your breath. The conscious awareness brought to the flow of inhales and exhales is a crucial element of Vinyasa yoga, but can also be practiced entirely on its own in the form of Pranayama.
Pranayama is the 4th Limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and is a practice that guides us deep within the inner workings of our breath cycle. It’s a lovely aid to meditation and has a profound impact on the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems. Try pairing it with a mantra during your meditation practice to see if it allows your mind to remain focused for a longer period of time.
By practicing Pranayama regularly it can help build concentration, reduce stress, and build a more engaged link between the mind and body. There are many different techniques of breath work to try, each with their own benefit, but our personal favorite is Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing.”
Nadi Shodhana is a simple yet powerful practice that is used to quiet the mind prior to meditation. We find that it’s also equally effective in reducing anxiety and stress. If you’d like to try it yourself, all you need to do is find a quiet and comfortable place in your home or outdoors and follow the steps below:
- Find a comfortable seat with your spine remaining nice and tall
- Relax your left hand in your lap and bring your right hand in front of your face
- With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers you’ll be primarily using are the thumb and ring finger
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly for the count of 3 or 4
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed (with ring finger and thumb); hold your breath
- Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side for the count of 3 or 4; pause briefly at the end
- Inhale through the right side slowly
- Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb)
- Open your left nostril and exhale slowly through the left side for the count of 3-4. Pause briefly at the end
- Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to focus solely on the breath flowing in and out of your body
As you continue to refine your practice you can start to increase the length of the inhales and exhales over time.
Help Calm Your Mind Before Practice With This Booster Shot