People from around the world are learning about the extraordinary benefits of practicing breathing exercises such as Pranayama. Some of these techniques were known for thousands of years but only now they surface in the West and become more widespread.
We often take breathing for granted and we don’t realize that with proper breath control we can gain access to improved states of consciousness and improved levels of performance. Let’s take a closer look at some of these methods and see how can you implement them in your everyday life.
- Pranayama – the ancient Indian breathing technique
Pranayama has been known in India for thousands of years. The name of the technique comes from the word “prana”, a vital life force that flows through your chakras (energy sources in your body). It might sound a bit esoteric but there are actually many scientifically proven reasons to try out this method.
It’s a great addition to your regular yoga practice as it quickly balances your energy and stabilizes your mood. In a way, it’s a form of mindfulness because it makes you intensely focus on your breath. There are 11 major types of pranayama and a basic session lasts for around 10 to 15 minutes.
The Wim Hof breathing technique – oxygenate your body
Wim Hof, or “The Iceman” is gaining internet notoriety for his amazing feats of endurance and immunity to extreme cold. He uses a special breathing technique which allows him to oxygenate his body, increase his levels of energy, and direct heat to his vital organs.
The technique is very simple. You inhale fully 30 times (and exhale moderately), then you exhale fully and don’t breathe for 2 full minutes (yes, it’s possible), and you finish with a deep breath and hold it for 30 seconds. After two or three rounds or around 15 minutes, you will feel like a brand new person.
- Breath observation – an essential part of a meditation practice
Observing your breath is the main part of any mindfulness practice. It will sharpen your focus, allow you to experience every moment more fully, and give you better control over your emotions. The most successful people in any field use it to improve their performance.
For example, Stephen Chidwick, who earned over $15,5 million in poker tournaments attributes much of his success to a regular meditation routine. Other celebrities who swear by the effectiveness of a regular meditation practice include Katy Perry, Madonna, Hugh Jackman, and Nicole Kidman. Maybe you should try it too.
- Breathing through your diaphragm – essential for relaxation
It’s possible that throughout most of your life you actually breathed in a wrong way. Most probably, you take shallow breaths through their chest. But this often makes you feel stressed and puts you in a constant fight or flight mode. You should try deep breathing instead.
Diaphragmatic breathing is simply breathing “through your belly”. Try it out by lying down on your back, putting your hand on your stomach, and taking 20 to 40 deep breaths. You should feel your stomach rising and falling. After the session, you’ll see you’re much more relaxed. This technique is practiced by many actors and musicians who want to deepen their voice and make it more resonant.
- The breath of fire – an essential part of Kundalini Yoga
You practice the breath of fire (or Agni Pran) by breathing rapidly and rhythmically through your nostrils. The inhale and exhale are equal in length and there’s no pause in between. It’s really fast and you can expect to do 2 or 3 breathing cycles per second.
After continuing the practice for around 4 to 5 minutes, you’ll feel invigorated. This is a great method which leads to improved blood circulation and brings a range of other benefits.
As you can see, the simple act of breathing with the right purpose and intention will help you to maintain balance and happiness in your life. Take one of the ideas listed above and incorporate it into your daily morning routine. Expect positive changes in your life!