Feeling stressed can have a significant impact on the way people breathe. The breath becomes shallow and rapid, and concentrated in the upper part of the lungs only. Over a long period of time, such breathing patterns can have a seriously detrimental impact on physical and mental health. To counter this habit, the ancient Ayurvedic practice of Pranayama is one of the most powerful tools of self-care we have available to us, to help control the panic and calm the nerves in all of life situations.
Pranayama entails a series of special breathing techniques to facilitate both relaxation and energisation. These techniques are central to Ayurveda – a system of medical treatment developed in India over 5,000 years ago. It’s best to practise Pranayama on an empty stomach, to allow full use of the respiratory muscles. The team from COMO Hotels & Resorts suggest practicing Pranayama within two hours of going to bed. Doing so may disrupt sleeping patterns, especially if you are a light sleeper. That’s how powerful it is. As they say, breath is life.
Basic breath awareness
• Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, place your hand on your abdomen and breathe normally. At this point you don’t have to do anything; just observe the rise and fall of your breath and be aware of any tension you might feel.
• Then, start to consciously make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible. You can take a slight pause between each inhale and exhale, if this helps.
• Bring your attention to the movement of your body: you will notice the way your abdomen is expanding and contracting with the rise and fall of your breath.
• Try to actively expand the abdomen on the ‘in’ breath and contract the abdomen on the ‘out’ breath to support the natural breathing process.
• Continue for another six to 12 breaths.
Sitali Pranayama (The Cooling Breath)
• Settle into a comfortable seated position, either on the floor or on a chair, ensuring your back is straight and your shoulders are relaxed.
• Close your eyes and take in a few natural breaths.
• Open your mouth and form an ‘O’ shape
• Form a straw shape with your tongue by curling in each side towards the centre
• Inhale through your tongue
• At the end of your inward breath, bring your tongue back inside your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose.
• Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.
Ujjayi Pranayama (The Ocean Breath)
This type of breathing technique reduces the amount of air that you inhale through your throat, thus encouraging longer and more controlled inhalations and exhalations.
• Get into a comfortable cross-legged position, relax your shoulders and close your eyes.
• Bring your attention to your breath and start to breathe through your mouth.
• Start to slightly contract your throat so that the air makes a slight rasping noise on the exhale.
• Once you have perfected this, do the same constriction of the throat on the inhale.
• Close your mouth and start to breathe through your nose, creating the same constriction in the throat as when you were breathing through your mouth. As you breathe through your nose, you will continue to make a loud exhalation noise.