Welcome to the practice of pranayama! You may remember pranayama from my post on the Eight-Fold Path a few months ago. If not, here is a review. In his book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar breaks the work down, explaining that “Prana means breath, respiration, vitality, wing, energy or strength. Ayama means length, expansion, stretching or restraint.” So put together, pranayama is the expansion or restraint of the breath or life force; in essence, breath control. There are numerous different methods of pranayama, each with varying effects on the mind and body. Some are suitable for everyone, while others require dedicated practice.
This audio will lead you through a 6-minute introduction into three-part breathing, or Dirgha pranayama. This style of breath is fairly easy to access, and can be practiced anytime during your day (even while sitting at your desk at work). It involves inhaling from the pit of the belly all the way up into the top of the chest, then exhaling from the top of the chest down into the bottom of the torso. This complete breath helps you to draw in more air with each inhale, allowing more oxygen to enter the lungs and travel to your cells. It can lead to a calmer, more relaxed mind and body, and breaks the cycle of shallow breathing that often occurs during the day.
To start, you can either find a comfortable seat or lie down on the floor. If you are seated in a chair, allow your spine to grow longer by rooting sit-bones into the seat and extending the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Your hands can rest on your lap as your shoulders soften away from your ears. If you are lying down, take up space. Your feet can fall open to the sides, completely relaxed, and the palms of your hands can turn to face the ceiling. This will help your shoulders to roll open, and create more space for the breath in your chest. I will go over these cues in the audio as well, so let’s get started!