Prana–the life force of the universe. In the far east, they say “chi”. Hawaiians call it “ki”. And, Yoda calls it “The Force”.
We are all born with a finite supply of chi which gets depleted over time through aging, overexertion, bad habits. But there is an infinite supply of chi in the universe that we can bring into the body to boost our energy, focus the mind, and have more fun in life. Pranayama is the practice of breathwork that allows us to boost our chi. If you do nothing else, you’ll love the effect of pranayama!
There are several different breathing exercises in the Yoga playbook. The most basic is Deerga Swaasam, the simple three part breath. Sitting comfortably with the spine long and the shoulders open, simply begin to observe the breath. Notice where you feel it expand. Ideally, the breath begins to expand the belly. With the next inhalation, move the breath into the rib cage as well, filling it up smoothly and exhaling slowly and silently. Finally, fill the entire lungs with air, beginning at the bottom of the lungs, moving into the rib cage, and finally filling up the upper chest with air and prana. As you exhale, close the glottis slightly to control the exhalation, creating a soft hissing sound. This is ujjai, a powerful tool to control inhalations and exhalations. Try to have the exhale at least as long as the inhale, or longer–up to twice as long.
To learn another pranayama technique, kapalabhati, go to my You Tube channel.
Pranayama is a key pillar in the structure of Big Yoga. When we can control the breath, we can also control the mind, so stay tuned for the next blog which will deal with the next pillar–meditation.