Just as its name suggests, Pranayama, or deep yogic breathing, is a life and energy-giving source. Doing the Pranayama regularly can cure almost every physical ailment.
We all know that deep breathing is beneficial. However, deep breathing doesn't just mean a deep inhalation, but it also means a complete exhalation. Remember to give equal importance to exhaling, and make sure all the breath is completely expelled from your body, because only then will your body be able to accept the fresh air drawn in.
These exercises should not be done immediately after meals. Wait at least three hours after a meal. The best time to do Pranayama is early in the morning, before breakfast.
1. Sit in Padmasana (lotus position) or Vajrasana, whatever feels more comfortable. If you cannot manage either, sit cross-legged.
2. Be sure you keep your spine straight all the time, or the Pranayama will not be as beneficial.
3. Take a deep breath, and as you inhale, expand your stomach as far as is comfortable. (The natural response may be to pull in the stomach while inhaling.) Feel the breath enter your abdomen.
4. Pull in your stomach while exhaling, expelling all the breath from deep within.
5. Breathe silently with your nose, not your mouth.
6. Don't overdo it. Take around 15 breaths in this manner.
During regular breathing we tend to exercise only the upper part of our lungs. During abdominal breathing however, the larger, lower part of the lungs expand leading to greater air intake and, consequently, greater oxygen intake. Circulation is enhanced and the abdominal organs get massaged.
After you have completed 15 breaths, go on to the next exercise.
In this exercise you will attempt to feel your rib cage expand with each breath.
1. Place your hands a little above your waist, on your ribs, with four of your fingers resting on your ribcage facing the fingers of the opposite hand, and the thumb, resting on the sides.
2. Contract your stomach muscles, so the air does not escape into the stomach. As you develop more practice you will not need to contract your stomach muscles, but it makes sense to contract them in the initial stages.
3. Inhale and feel your rib cage expand to the sides and to the front. Exhale, and feel the cage collapse. Do this exercise 15 times, and try and breathe silently through the exercise. Although you should concentrate on your breathing, you should not hear yourself breathe.
This breathing technique involves the raising of the collarbones.
1. Place the fingers of each hand on the corresponding shoulder.
2. Keep your stomach muscles immobilized or contracted, as you did in the previous exercise.
3. Now, take a breath, attempting to raise your collarbones slightly. Do not raise your shoulders, although you may move them slightly backwards with each inhalation.
4. This form of breathing essentially comes naturally to most people, and is a shallow form of breathing. On a daily basis, attempt to breathe more deeply. This form of breathing however is good when incorporated in pranayam.
As the final exercise, attempt to combine all forms of breathing in one breath. First, expand your stomach, then ribs, and then, finally, raise your collarbones. Your body is now full of air. Exhale, first collapsing the collarbones, then the ribcage and finally, contracting your stomach. Do this exercise 15 times.