Teaching Yoga: Pranayama for Anxiety

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Teaching Yoga: Pranayama for Anxiety

yoga trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Which of the eight limbs of Yoga is overrated?  If you completed a Hatha Yoga teacher training course, it is likely that half of your training was devoted to the study of asana.  Sadly, some graduates may not have learned anything about Yama or Niyama, but that’s another story.  Pranayama, which is also one of the eight limbs is the most essential of physical Yogic practices.  To put it simply, if I cannot breathe, I will not finish this article.  Therefore, Yogic breathing will extend your life and improve the quality of living.

Yoga has many methods to keep the mind occupied.  Anxiety often stems from leaving the mind unsupervised, while letting negative energy, within the mind, “take the helm.”  We all have dark thoughts, which can rise to the surface in the form of worry, anxiety, stress, or a panic attack.  Now, let’s take a closer look at pranayama methods to prevent anxiety in everyday life.

Pranayama or Pranayam: These are Yogic breathing techniques for cultivation of life energy.  Yogic breathing improves your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  For people in good health: Take the time to learn at least seven different forms of Pranayama. There are many more, but seven will give you plenty of alternatives to work with.

Advice for Students

If you are new to Yoga training, learn pranayama from a competent Yoga instructor, or Ayurvedic doctor, and continue your practice at home.  As a general suggestion, Kapalabhati, Bhastrika , Ujjayi, Nadi Shodhana, Brahmari, Bahaya, Dirgha, and Udgeeth Pranayama are a good start.

If you have a medical condition, you need to let your physician know exactly which pranayama techniques you are practicing.  If you have a pre-existing medical condition, please do not self-prescribe pranayama techniques without a professional opinion.  Your doctor will likely refer you to a competent Yoga teacher for Pranayama instruction.  If not, you can still seek out a Yoga teacher, or Ayurvedic doctor, for advice.

Never practice pranayama to the point of feeling faint. If you feel any dizziness, slow down and resume later.  Listen to, and follow, the specific instructions your Yoga teacher, or Ayurvedic doctor, recommends for each specific Pranayama technique.

People often think Yogic breathing is easy enough to do, but it requires that we follow instructions, exactly. For example: If your Yoga instructor, or Ayurvedic doctor, recommends a total of four minutes per day of Kapalabhati practice, you should do no more, or less.

Many people think they should do more pranayama practice and their health will improve faster.  Treat Yogic breathing just like medicine and you will obtain the best results.  Usually, you cannot take medicine one time and expect miraculous results.

So, why do some people practice Yogic breathing once in a “blue moon” and expect miracles?  The reason is a belief in expensive pills, but a lack of faith in “free air.”  If you pay more for something, it should be of more value than something free – right?

The best things for your nutrition are free air and water, but many people have more faith in expensive pills. Never make the mistake of taking your breath for granted.  Without air, we do not last long, so air is the most vital food of all.

Many people make the claim “I know how to breathe.”  Do most people really know how to breathe “correctly?”  With so many people being short of breath, due to incorrect breathing, stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, most people have demonstrated that they do not know how to breathe correctly.

Pranayama is supervised breathing, in a specific pattern, for a specific reason. Many people are surprised at how good they feel after practicing Yogic breathing on a daily basis. If you start today, there is a strong possibility you will breathe your problems away.

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