While change and challenge are part of life, what if we could effectively manage our response to stress and not merely survive but thrive in today’s fast-paced world? Many find Pranayama, or yogic breathing, to be an absolute game-changer since the breath is one of the easiest doorways into the human nervous system. It touches every aspect of our being: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

A daily Pranayama practice stimulates the body’s natural relaxation response, creating a sense of calm that decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. It also helps you reconnect to your body and shift your awareness away from the chatter in your mind. Because every emotional state we experience has a corresponding pattern of breathing associated with it, when we spend several minutes a day consciously regulating our breath, we break our unconscious patterns of breathing — and thus the unconscious emotional and thought patterns.

Here are five Pranayama practices. Try incorporating some of these each day for two weeks:

1. Sama Vritti (Even Breath)

In this practice, the inhales and exhales should be even, so the same amount of energy that is drawn in, is then recycled out.

Practice tip: Inhale for four counts and hold for two counts. Exhale for four counts and hold for two counts. Repeat for 10 rounds.

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2. Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

Ujjayi breath is generated by allowing the flow of breath to pass gently along the glottis, the base of the throat, creating a soft but audible sound. (Think Darth Vader breath.) The sound should be even on both the inhales and exhales.

Practice Tip: Inhale for four counts with ujjayi sound. Exhale for four counts with ujjayi sound. Repeat for 10 rounds.

3. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)

Nadi Shodhana balances the right and left channels of our system.

Practice tip: Start by emptying the lungs on an exhale. Close the right nostril with the right thumb, and breathe in through the left nostril for four counts. Hold for two counts. Inhale for four counts and hold for two counts. Exhale for four counts and hold for two counts. Repeat for 10 rounds.

Seal the left nostril with the right ring finger and breathe out through the right nostril for four counts. Hold for two counts. Breathe in through the right nostril for four counts and hold for two counts. Seal the right nostril with the right thumb, and breathe out through the left nostril for four counts. Hold for two counts. Repeat the cycle eight times.

4. Viloma 1 (Interrupted Inhales)

“Vi” means negation and “loma” means hair. This breath, which pauses ujjayi breath on the inhale, moves against the grain.

Practice tip: Inhale for two counts and pause for two counts. Inhale for two more counts. Exhale for four counts. Repeat for 10 rounds, activating the ujjayi breath.

5. Viloma 2 (Interrupted Exhales)

In Viloma 2, ujjayi breath is paused on the exhale.

Practice tip: Inhale for four counts. Exhale for two counts, and pause for two counts. Exhale for two more counts. Repeat for 10 rounds, activating the ujjayi breath.

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