The doorway to the Divine Within is through Silence. The human mind is an expert at filling the silence with noise. Yoga exists to help humans clear out that noise. Two yoga practices in particular—asana and pranayama—are the foundation for doing this.
First, we still our body using asana postures. Second, we steady our breath using pranayama practices. Pranayama is the art and science of regulated breathing. Practitioners consciously recognize, stabilize, and control the breath.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
The word pranayama is Sanskrit, meaning “to extend the life force.” Prana means “life force in the breath” and Yama means “to extend.” The goal of pranayama is to increase the concentration of life force in our body to allow for a calmer mind. Not to mention the awesome side benefit of a way healthier body.
Just like how asana yoga has a multitude of postures, pranayama has a multitude of breathing techniques typically using a count of seconds. I started out with one at age 18 that alternates nostrils and it has worked wonders for me. I've continued for decades using it as a baseline, occasionally adding others using guidance from an experienced Teacher.
Mantra yoga and chanting are actually parts of the pranayama “limb” of yoga because they involve the use of the breath in speaking a mantra. However, I like to teach that as part of the devotion principle of spiritual satisfaction. From my experience, while mantra yoga and chanting do use the breath, they fit better with the use of our voice to talk with the God Force. I'll discuss mantra yoga and chanting in a forthcoming article.
Where Do I Start?
For people new to pranayama, I recommend the technique called “The Cleansing Breath.” It's an alternate nostril practice perfect for experimenting. Some pranayama practices include a period of holding the breath, however, I don't recommend this for those of you that are just starting out.
To start out, I recommend doing your pranayama practice in your sacred space. Sit upright with your feet on the floor. The asana "Sitting God" is a great posture to use.
Then, follow these steps:
- Using your right hand, close the right nostril with your right thumb and breathe in through the left nostril, inhaling as much air as your lungs will comfortably hold.
- Close the left nostril quickly with your right middle or index finger, and without holding the breath, exhale as thoroughly as you can through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril, close it with your right thumb, and exhale through your left nostril.
These three steps complete one full cycle. Repeat this cycle a total of eight times.
Relaxed and Methodical
Pranayama is most effective when done on a daily basis. Be relaxed and methodical while doing the breathing. If it makes you lightheaded, do only half as many cycles. With time, you'll become accustomed to the practice and be able to do the full eight cycles easily. Next time I'll talk more in depth about the specific goals of the Cleansing Breath pranayama practice.
Feel free to do this Cleansing Breath practice the rest of your life if you desire. However, don't expand it or switch to another pranayama practice without first consulting with an experienced pranayama teacher.
Next: In "Pranayama: Part Two," we'll talk about the order of doing asana and pranayama in one session together, the three goals of pranayama, tracking your progress, and the positive results you're likely to experience throughout your day.
Ready, Set, Action!
As always, I invite you to explore these topics in your own unique way, by yourself or with others. Share with me about how it's going and what blocks you are running into. You can use the comment section below, or for more privacy, email me at [email protected].
I've devoted my life to the uncovering of my Divine self. Because of the blissful results, I'm committed to supporting fellow seekers in the uncovering of their Divine self. One way I do this is through the Your Path~Your Spiritual Satisfaction group coaching program that I created. It includes a self-assessment on the topics I've discussed in this article.
If you'd like to learn more about it, please join me and the Tree of Life Sanctuary coaching team in one of our regular complimentary information webinars. Click here to learn more.
Written by Laura Abernathy