PranayamaAug 30, 2021 12:47PM ● By Nicole Zornitzer
Pranayama is the manipulation of breath in yogic terms. It is my belief that pranayama is more important than the physical asana practice. As I tell my students, when we find the ability to manipulate our breathing patterns, we are exercising our internal bodies and the positive affects this has on the physical body is immeasurable. Therefore, before starting any asana practice it is important to learn how to breath.
We use prana, or energy to create a multitude of affects within the physical, emotional, and mental bodies. Pranayama is the directly related to the second Kosha, Pranamayakosha and the movement of breath in the body. When we focus on the inhalation during a yoga practice, we are in essence creating a more energizing practice to heat and create alertness. When we focus on the exhalation during a practice we are conversely, embracing a more cooling or relaxing sensation in the body.
Taking a deeper dive into the term “prana”, it is best understood as energy not only within the body but also energy around the body. The practice of yoga introduces the practitioner to the idea of manipulating the breath to create health, wellness, awareness of self and our individual power to rewire our internal tendencies.
There are a multitude of types of pranayama techniques:
3 Part Breath
Attention to breathing in from the nostrils through the chest down to the belly. This is the most used pranayama technique for beginner yogis.
Alternate Nostril Breathing used to create balance between the right and left hemispheres of the body.
Ocean Breathing which is also viewed as a more balancing breath that fills the lungs with energy or prana while removing stagnant energy and encouraging strength and tone.
Shining Skull Breath, which is energizing and stimulating, and the focus is on the exhalation while embracing a more passive inhalation. This breath is used to recharge the nervous system and clear out toxins.
Bellows Breath is similar to Kapalabhati but more heating and energizing as we focus on both the inhalation and exhalation. The breath is beneficial for circulation, digestion and respiratory health.
Shitali and Sitkari
Cooling Breath which is beneficial if there is an excess of heat in the body (especially in the summer months).
When working with groups or in individual sessions in Yoga Therapy, Reiki, and Sound Healing. attention to pranayama is the always the first step in centering a client. When we encourage ourselves and others to simply focus on inhaling and exhaling, we are creating a mindful activity that enables one to become present. We often hear yogis discussing the ability to be present not only on the yoga mat, but also off the mat in everyday activities. The use of pranayama is an ideal method to create this awareness. The wonderful aspect about this practice is that it can be done anytime, anywhere! When we become aware of our surroundings and what may trigger our personal stress response, we have the ability to calm our own bodies and minds by focusing on breathing. Alternatively, if we feel sluggish or tired, we also have the tools at our ready to create a more alert body.
Learning how to breathe may sound intuitive, but it does take time, patience and practice. Become your own laboratory, use this body as information and allow daily life both on the yoga mat and off the yoga mat to become a moving meditation all charged by one breath at a time. We are all just one breath away from letting go and simply being.
Nicole Zornitzer, ERYT 1000, yoga therapist, founder of Niyama Yoga & Wellness Shala, located in Randolph, New Jersey, Upper Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey, and Delray Beach in Florida. NiyamaYogaShala.com.