By Gopi Rao
During a Yoga teacher training intensive many pranayama techniques are addressed, but many teachers only teach what they like. One point to consider is our Yoga students need to understand the therapeutic applications of each pranayama technique.
There are a variety of pranayama techniques that alleviate stress. Some of the best pranayama techniques are Dirga pranayama and Ujjayi pranayama. These breathing techniques are also some of the more simple Yoga pranayama techniques with which to start practicing. Yoga training in the form of asanas and breathing techniques are effective and natural ways to release muscular tension, while lowering stress levels.
Tension and stress accumulates in the body and mind, resulting in muscular tension and a rise in the levels of adrenalin and cortisol. High levels of cortisol and adrenalin are very useful in an emergency, but sustained high levels of these hormones wear the body down and eventually lower the functioning of the immune system. Consistently high levels of cortisol can also lead to lower levels of serotonin, depression and insomnia. It is important to release tension and stress periodically in order to maintain good mental and physical health. This is why Yoga training sessions are so important for one’s mental and physical health.
Dirga (Dirgha) Pranayama
This pranayama technique is known as the three-part breath. It enhances deep, belly breathing and a full expansion of the lungs. Sit comfortably on your Yoga mat in a cross-legged position. If you prefer, you may lie down on your mat. Take three long, complete breaths, inhaling and exhaling for an even amount of time. Now, take a third of an inhale and hold the breath at the level of the lower belly or belly button area. Hold for approximately five seconds. Take another third of an inhale and hold the in-breath at the level of the lower rib cage for five seconds. For the third part of the breath, fill your lungs completely and hold at the base of your throat for five seconds. Try to make each inhale equivalent to each other. Exhale evenly and slowly through your nose for a count of fifteen. Repeat within the range of five to ten times. This breath will help to calm your mind, lower you anxiety level and increase your lung capacity.
Most people know of Ujjayi from vinyasa and power Yoga classes. However, most yoga instructor certification courses don’t discuss the therapeutic benefits, which include calming states of mind. Ujjayi is also recommended for insomnia, when practiced in restorative asanas.
Ujjayi breathing is known as the ocean-sounding breath. This breathing practice is done by partially closing the glottis or back of the throat as you inhale and exhale through the nose. One of the funniest and more accurate terms that I have heard of this breath is the “Darth Vadar Breath” from Star Wars. When the breath is practiced correctly, this is exactly how it sounds!
To begin Ujjayi pranayama, take three full and complete breaths through your nose. After the third exhale, gently contract the back of your throat so that there is some resistance to the air flowing in and out of your throat. Practice a few times with your mouth open to make sure you are contracting the back of your throat enough to make an ocean sound or Darth Vadar sound. Then practice Ujjayi pranayam with your mouth closed. Take long, deep complete breaths through your nose for a slow count of five, exhale for an equal count of five and continue. You may practice this breathing technique alone, or as you do the asanas. It will help to soothe you, focus your mind and balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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