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The Power of BreathWork


“Most of us do not notice how we breathe. We do not feel how we hold the breath or construct various parts of the belly or chest. Our way of breathing is normal to us.” Anodea Judith

Our body is always breathing: whether we think about it or not, we inhale and exhale every second of the day. Once we become aware of how to utilize our breath, it can change the perspective on how we are living.

Breathwork (also known as Pranayama) practices gear you up for external movement and feed the body what it needs. These practices can be done anywhere and at any time. However, remaining conscious while breathing can be a bit tricky. Sometimes we rely on our mind to do all of the talking rather than our body. With breathwork, we have to allow the body to discuss with the mind: discuss the action of being.

So what is Pranayama? Pranayama is derived from the two Sanskrit words: Prana ‘life force’ and Yama ‘expansion’. The full meaning is controlling the breath.

There are many breathing techniques you can use for picking up energy, calming the mind, and grounding yourself. Find yourself in a comfortable seat, sitting tall with your spine long.   Here are several common techniques used in yogic practices that you can use at any time you feel called:

  1. Ujjayi (Ocean Breath): Helpful for self-soothing after a stressful day. (Pronounced oo-ja-ee)

    1. Take a deep inhale through your nose.

    2. As you exhale out through the nose, restrict the throat which will make an ocean-like sound.

    3. Another way of doing this breath can be exhaling through the mouth making a ‘haaaaa’ sound. Keep going for as long as you feel comfortable.

  2. Bhastrika (Breath of Fire): Used to energize and fire up the mind. (Pronounced bah-streeka)

    1. Take several deep breaths in a relaxed easy pose (crisscrossed) and close the eyes.

    2. Inhale to a comfortable level and begin to forcefully exhale through the nose quickly. The inhale will automatically happen as you exhale at one second per cycle.

    3. The belly pumps in and out with the breath. Pay attention to how the inhale takes the same amount of time as the exhale. Try to count to 100 or start by counting to 50.

    4. If you are pregnant or on the first day of your menstrual cycle, take long deep breaths rather than this quick practice. If you have or have had panic disorder, hypertension, stomach ulcers, vertigo, or glaucoma stick with long deep breathing. 

  3. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing): For grounding oneself and cleansing energy, this practice aids in anxiety. (Pronounced as written)

  1. Make a cow-a-bunga with your right hand and add your ring finger. Place your right thumb on your right nostril and inhale through your left.

  2. At the peak, close off the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. After a full exhalation, leave the left nostril closed and inhale through the right nostril. Close off the right then exhale through the left.

  3. Keep going as long as you’d like with this pattern and count to 4 on each inhale and exhale.

What are the benefits of breathwork?

  • Improves overall health and well-being

  • Reduces stress and anxiety

  • Enhances lung capacity and improves respiration

  • Increases energy

  • Boosts immunity

  • Improves spinal mobility

To learn more about these meditative practices and others please visit the links below! Please note this article and the links shared are meant to inform and not for medical advice.

Dages Juvelier Keates and her Recipes for Joy

Meditations for Energy and Balancing Hormones

TED Talk: Change Your Breath, Change Your Life

Podcast: The Truth About Breathing