Three Simple Practices to Reduce Stress
Pranayama, which literally means "to extend the vital life force," is an incredibly rich practice made up of many breathing techniques. There are many simple techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and comfortably lengthening the exhalation that can be used at any time to transform your state of mind.
Most people's unconscious breathing patterns tend to be tense, shallow and erratic. This of course leads to tension and anxious feelings. There are several simple techniques you can try on your own as long as you are in good health and do not push beyond your capacity.
The three breaths that follow: relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, sitali, and gentle extended exhalation are excellent pranyamas to reduce stress and quiet the mind.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: The benefits of this breathing technique is the calming quality it has on the nervous system. This is a breath you can do at least once a day and at any time. To do this breath you can simply lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Once your breath feels relaxed, then gradually begin to allow the abdomen to rise on the in breath, and as you exhale, feel a slight contraction of the abdomen. Continue to practice this breath for 6 to 12 times.
2. Sitali Breath: This breath is known as the "cooling breath" because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. In order to practice this breath you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The benefits of this breath can improve focus and reduce anger and anxiety. You can do this breath twice a day or as needed during stressful times. When performing sitali breath sit comfortably with shoulders relaxed and spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the "straw" formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower the chin back to neutral position. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
3. The Long Exhale: This breath involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice as long as your inhalation. This breath has a tremendous impact on reducing insomnia, sleep disturbances and anxiety. Begin this breath by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths, feeling the abdomen expand on the inhalation and gently contract on the exhalation. With your palm on your abdomen, mentally count the length of each inhalation and exhalation. Once your inhalation and exhalation are equal, gradually increase the length of your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds by gently contracting the abdomen. Continue to gradually increase your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds every few breaths. Just bare in mind that an exhalation that is only slightly longer than an inhalation can induce a calming effect.
When you are connected to your breath you are connected to true self and experience a happier life. Through the practice of pranayama you can reduce all of the mental noise and achieve peace of mind and connect to your own inner light.
Here's to keeping your body at peace and your mind at rest!
Mary Jane ~ Feng Shui Master & Yogi