There’s no place like “om”!
I’m super excited to share this new project with everyone, but first, I battle with all the techie things…and I’m not a techie type of person. With any luck, I’ll be ready to launch by September 15th, 2020. Or the end of the year. Or sometime during my lifetime!
I will be focusing on meditation and various types of breath work, both of which I owe my sanity to. At some point far, far down the road, I might also share videos but that is yet to be determined. I mean, who wants to see some lady in her 50’s on video when there’s so many perky, younger and already extremely famous, wonderful on-line teachers available out there?! (see Adriene Mishler or Brett Larkin for example)
For now, take a peek at some of the benefits of breath work and meditation down below and some easy breath techniques that you can incorporate into your life today. Why wait? Start feeling better today.
More details soon my friends.
logo credit & my deepest appreciation to: Paul Dehnert/Abby Dehnert
Try out a free 5-6 minute meditation about Peace or Hope right now! (It says “buy my product” but you enter 0 as the payment amount, click on pay, then enter your email address).
Benefits of meditation (just to name a few)
- Emotional balance
- Enhanced immunity, less frequency & duration of illness
- Improved digestion & quality of sleep
- Improved cognitive function, memory & concentration
- Creativity, imagination
- Reduced anxiety, irritability, impatience and depression
- Improved happiness, wellbeing, calmness and harmonious relationships
- Mind & body are intrinsically linked
- Release of negativity, decreased adrenaline, reduced stress
- Learn to not be a victim of regret, past resentment, or worrying about future
- Develop a relationship with your true self, destroys false perceptions
Benefits of breath work
- Strengthen lungs
- Boost immunity
- Reduce stress, anxiety, grief, depression and anger
- Increase energy levels
- Increase self-awareness
- Increase happiness, self love
- Improve sleep (see 4-7-8 breath method below)
- Release fear and/or trauma trapped in the body
- Reduce pain by releasing endorphins
- Release toxins
- Improve digestion (stimulates blood flow in the digestive track)
- Lowers heart rate
- Helps you relax
- Reduces stress hormone cortisol
- Improves core muscles
- Increases oxygen supply in the system
- And so much more!
Benefits of breath retention and breath work
Incorporating breath retention (i.e. holding the breath for short periods of time) into your breath work is said to increase the body’s resistance to bacterial infections and increase the life span by preserving the health of stem cells. It brings more blood to the brain and heart, expands lung capacity, and calms the nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve (the longest nerve in the body that connects the brain to many important organs).
Furthermore, when the breath is retained, the brain panics because the carbon dioxide levels increase. These increased levels stimulate the brain’s capillaries to dilate. More capillaries are opened up to improve cerebral circulation which then builds up nervous energy in the brain, resulting in the creation of new neural pathways.
Breath work, in general, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates a bodily response that puts you into “rest and digest” mode versus the “fight or flight” mode that our sympathetic nervous system triggers. To simplify, it relaxes us versus putting us into a stressed-out state.
Another benefit of breath work is that deep breathing presses down on the thoracic duct, the largest duct of the lymphatic system. This duct carries lymph fluid as well as emulsified fats and stimulates detoxification, elimination, and digestion, among other things.
I will try to make the list below as extensive as possible and provide the Sanskrit word when available.
Various types of breath work
Disclaimer: If you have any type of uncontrolled medical condition (high blood pressure, for example) that may be affected by various forms of breath work, consult your physician beforehand. If you are doing breath work and it doesn’t feel “right” or something feels “off”, stop immediately and allow your breath to return to normal. I strongly urge everyone to do their own due diligence and research on the different breath techniques listed below before trying them.
I am including many types of breath techniques for you to peruse at your leisure. Some of these will be used in our daily meditations from time to time.
365 breath method (no, I did not create this!)
3 – do it 3 times a day
6- breathe a rhythm of 6 cycles per minute (inhale for a count of 5, exhale for 5- this results in 6 cycles per minute)
5– do this 5 minutes each day
Releasing Breath- relaxing & simple
Sit or lie comfortably. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale or “sigh it out” (saying hahhhhhhhh) through the mouth. I use a count of 4 or 5 for both the in/ex- hale, or sometimes a count of 8 for the exhale if I am completely emptying the air from my lungs.
This breath work is also known as releasing, sighing or clearing breath and signals the body to relax.
I like to pair this particular breath work with a meditation aimed at releasing something which no longer serves me. As I release or sigh out the breath through the mouth, I mentally let go of that which is holding me back.
Balanced breath (Samavritti)- calming, focus
Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Inhale slowly for a count of 4, retain the breath for a count of 4, exhale fully for a count of 4, retain for a count of 4. Repeat for several rounds.
This is also known as the 4 square breath technique or box breathing. If you are a beginner, you can start off by holding the breath for a count of 2 vs 4, so that it’s a 4-2-4-2 breath vs 4-4-4-4.
Three-Part Breath (Dirga Swasam Pranayama) – grounding
The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm (rib cage area), and chest. Sit or lie down comfortably. Completely fill your lungs with air, drawing the air down into your belly, letting it expand like a balloon, then the ribcage, and finally the upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow; upper chest, ribcage, then belly deflating.
This technique is often the first one taught to yoga practitioners and is usually used at the beginning of yoga practice to settle in and prepare for practice and meditation
This breath technique teaches you to breathe fully and completely. Ineffective breathing is a common problem in today’s modern world. When you breathe shallowly (called “chest breathing”), the air only enters your upper chest and very little enters your lower chest causing a lack of oxygen to your blood vessels.
Learning to breathe deeply can aid in increasing your oxygen supply, which will help to decrease stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, focusing on your body during the three breath brings awareness to the present moment, calming your mind.
4-7-8 breath technique- the natural tranquilizer for the nervous system: Aids with sleep/anxiety
Regular practice of this technique can help some individuals fall asleep quicker by aiding with relaxation.
Choose a spot where you can fully relax. While sitting or lying down, close the eyes and begin by relaxing the tongue and resting the tip gently against the roof of your mouth, behind the front teeth. Exhale fully.
Next, inhale deeply through the nose for a count of 4. Hold (retain) the breath for a count of 7, then exhale fully, through the mouth, making a whoosh sound, if you choose, for a count of 8. Repeat a minimum of 4 times when first starting out and increase to 8 times gradually.
7/11 breath technique – for stress
Very simply, breathe in for a count of 7, breathing deeply into the belly and allowing it to expand, then exhale for a count of 11, allowing the belly to deflate. Repeat for 5-10 minutes.
A longer out-breath is said to activate the parasympathetic nervous system more quickly, therefore relaxing you more rapidly.
Lion’s Breath- stretches face muscles, relieves tension, energizes
Traditionally, this is done while sitting on your shins/heels, with the knees either together or apart, or on your knees in “lion pose”, similar to table pose. For our purposes, sit in any comfortable position with your hands on your lap, palms down. Allow your breath to calm naturally, taking a few breaths.
When ready, take a deep breath through the nose. To exhale, open the mouth wide, stick the tongue out and down, stretching it towards the bottom of your chin as far as it will go and make the sound “haaaaah” as you exhale. At the same time, look upwards towards the “third eye”, and spread the fingers wide.
As you inhale, allow your face and eyes to return to a neutral position, close the mouth and relax the hands.
Repeat 3-4 times, then allow the face to relax, soften the tongue inside the mouth, and let your breath return to it’s natural rhythm.
Bellows Breath- (Bashtrika)– energize
You may wish to begin by gently blowing the nose, then sit comfortably, close the eyes if you like, rest the left hand in your lap and place the right hand on the belly.
Breathe naturally for a couple of breaths, then take one deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the nose.
On the next inhale, quickly inhale and exhale through the nose fully and with some force. (this is why it may be helpful to begin by blowing the nose). The length of the in/ex- hale should be the same length, about 1 second. This is one round. When beginning, aim to start with 10 rounds. After the 10th exhale, take a deep inhale and then hold the breath as long as you comfortably can. Next, exhale very slowly and deeply.
The breath should come from your diaphragm and you should feel the belly expand and deflate: ensure that head and upper body are not moving.
Allow your natural breathing to return for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute or so before doing any more rounds, building up to 3 rounds.
In addition to being energizing, this breath technique can also boost your metabolism and may produce a sense of elation.
Avoid: If you have high blood pressure or cardiac problems.
Breath of Fire (Agni Pran)– focus, centre, energize, awaken
Breath of Fire is key to the practice of Kundalini Yoga. It helps oxygenate the blood, energizes and nurtures all the body’s systems, aligns the navel chakra, activates our capacity to focus and be centred in our body, and creates the heat necessary to stimulate the awakening of the “Kundalini”.
I hesitated adding this here as it’s a bit more complex and, in my opinion, advanced, but as it’s my favourite type of breath work, and the one I practice every morning, I had to do it justice. Read through all the steps first, then give it a try. The more you do this, the better you get. In time, you will learn to love it.
Take a few, normal breaths. When ready, on your next exhale, pull the navel toward the spine as you exhale a bit sharply through the nose in a short “burst”. The navel then relaxes and goes back out as you inhale softly. This should be done as a rhythmic pumping. Repeat the exhale/ inhale slowly at first until you get the hang of it, over time increasing the pace.
A common mistake is to actively inhale as well as exhale. This slows down the breath. Only the exhale is active. The inhale is the same length as the exhale, but we allow it to happen instead of making it happen. Yes, this will only make sense after you’ve been doing it awhile and I strongly encourage you to watch some YouTube videos on it.
Tips for learning Breath of Fire
- Panting in and out with your mouth open, like a dog, is a helpful exercise for getting in touch with using the muscles of the navel and diaphragm to do quick rhythmic breathing. Once you’re used to that, close the mouth and try to do it through the nose only.
- Focus on the short exhales. Only the exhale is active. The inhale happens automatically.
- Breath of Fire is a light breath. The movement at the navel should be relaxed and rhythmic.
- Do not tense or use the muscles of the chest, shoulders, or face. The muscles of the shoulders, chest, and ribcage remain relaxed.
- When learning Breath of Fire, practice the breath a short time (even a few seconds) and then stop. When the breath starts to feel laboured, stop.
- Allow your breath to return to normal before recommencing. Practice, stop, and try again. It may take a few days, weeks or even months until you get into the right rhythm. You will know when you get it because you will be able to continue for longer periods of time without slowing down or building up tension.
Note: this breath technique is often confused with Kapalabati, even by yogis and teachers who’ve been practicing for decades. After hours (and hours) of research, I can confirm that the two are not the same thing. Based on my research and how I was taught by my Kundalini teacher, the steps above are the correct ones for Breath of Fire.
Bumblebee breath (Brahmari) – relaxing (but feels silly!)
Block the ears off with your thumbs. You can either cover your eyes with the remaining fingers or chose not to. Next, Inhale through nose, and exhale through nose while making humming sound.
This breath is said to relax the body, calm the mind, soothes tension. The theory is that the vibrations in the larynx stimulate sensory receptors that signal the vagus nerve to induce a calming effect.
This possibly also eases thyroid and sinus problems, reduces headaches, boots concentration and memory, and prevents insomnia.
Left Nostril Breathing – calming
Sit in a comfortable position and close the eyes. Exhale, then block the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale and exhale through the left nostril only, using long deep breathing. A count of 4 is most often used. Start with a few minutes and gradually build up over time.
Right Nostril Breathing- energizing
Sit in a comfortable position and close the eyes. Exhale then block the left nostril with the left thumb and inhale and exhale long and deeply through the right nostril only. Start with a few minutes and gradually build up over time.
Alternate nostril breathing with retention (Anuloma Viloma) – balancing
Sit in a comfortable position and close the eyes. Keep the left hand in your lap and close your right hand in a gentle fist in front of your nose. Extend your right thumb and ring finger. Gently block your right nostril with your thumb.
Inhale through your left nostril for count of 4 then block it with your ring finger. Retain (hold) the breath for count of 8. Release your right nostril and exhale slowly through it for a count of 8. Next, inhale through the right nostril for count of 4, then block it with your thumb. Hold the breath for a count of 8. Release your left nostril and exhale slowly through it for count of 8.
That completes one cycle. Repeat 4–6 times. When done, drop the right hand onto the lap and allow your breath to return to normal. Beginners may wish to start with a 4-4-4 count (inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4) and work their way up to the 4-8-8 count.
This breath technique is said to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain and balance/relax the nervous system. Additionally, it is said to aid with removing toxins from the body, relieve headaches, stress and depression.
Many more techniques to follow- stay tuned!