Pranayama Techniques to Achieve Any Mood
Practicing different pranayama, or breath control, techniques can prepare us and our students for asana, savasana, or a seated meditation. Being able to control our breath can help us get in tune with our bodies and control how we are feeling in the present moment. Our breath is so essential to not only our practice, but our life; harnessing the life force that keeps us alive gives us immense control over our physical state.
Different forms of pranayama are more appropriate for the morning, evening, or how we would like our body to feel moving forward. They range from the very simple to the very advanced. Breathing can be harder than it looks! If you want to share these techniques with students, instruct the pranayama as if you were instructing a new asana. Some students may need alternatives, if, for example, they cannot roll their tongue or have allergies and cannot breathe through the nose.)
Enjoy some of the following pranayama techniques with your students or in your own personal practice.
Determination - Ujjayi Pranayama
Keep your inner fire burning with this victorious breathing exercise. Ujjayi may be practiced throughout a vinyasa practice.
How to Practice Ujjayi Pranayama:
- Gently close the back of your throat.
- Smoothly inhale through the nose as if you were 3. sipping through a straw. The breath should create a sound similar to the ocean.
- Smoothly exhale through the nose in a similar fashion. Repeat this breath, extending the length of each inhale and exhale.
Healthy - Kapalabhati Pranayama
Whether you are feeling physically sick or mentally drained, the “breath of fire” can trigger purification throughout the body. Kapalabhati has been attributed a wide variety of health benefits, including weight loss and kidney health.
Note: Avoid this pranayama technique if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure.
How to Practice Kapalbhati Pranayama:
- Find a comfortable seated position and place your hands on your thighs, palms down.
- Fill up your body with a long, deep inhale through the nose.
- Exhale through the nose in short bursts from the lower abdomen. Inhales should be passive. (This breathing technique takes time to master.) Exhale in short bursts for 60 seconds, then take a long inhale through the nose. Exhale throughout the mouth.
Cool - Sitali Pranayama
The amazing thing about pranayama is that by simply breathing, we can alter our body temperature, mood, and overall health. Sitali Pranayama can bring moisture into the body and cool it down during a hot day.
How to Practice Sitali Pranayama:
- Curl the tongue into an “O” shape.
- Slowly inhale through the mouth, feeling the air become cool as it hits your tongue. Lift the chin toward the sky as you inhale.
- Close your lips, slowly exhale through the nose, and lower your chin back down.
Relief - Viloma Pranayama
This breath builds up anticipation through the inhale and gives you the enjoyment of a long, calm, sigh of relief on the exhale. This is a great breath technique at the end of a long day.
Note: Avoid this pranayama technique if you are pregnant.
How to Practice Viloma Pranayama:
- Inhale for two counts.
- Hold breath for two counts.
- Repeat 1-2 until you are filled with air.
- Exhale everything in one calm, smooth breath.
Awareness - Krama Pranayama
There are many ways to segment and count your breath. All of these methods will help to put your mind at ease and focus on the present moment. Another step of breathing technique I like to use to calm students down is a form of this segmented breath.
How to Practice Krama Pranayama:
- Find a comfortable supine position.
- Inhale through your nose to fill up your chest for two counts.
- Inhale through your nose to fill up your upper abdomen for two counts.
- Inhale through your nose to fill up your lower abdomen for two counts.
- Exhale through your nose to empty your lower abdomen for two counts.
- Exhale through your nose to empty your upper abdomen for two counts.
- Exhale through your nose to empty your chest for two counts.
- Repeat 2-7.