Greetings from the “Ask the Yogi” Department!!
This is quite a belated response to a question posed by a student back in March:
“I often find myself wanting to use yoga breathing techniques at certain stressful times in my day. For instance, when I’m angry, anxious, tired, or tense. Are there different techniques that work for different times in the day?”
It should be noted that, as a postscript to the question she cited complaints of insomnia and added, “I know this may be hard to explain in a blog post…but I thought it might be interesting to explore how one can apply yoga throughout their day.”
Indeed it would be interesting to explore! But first, let’s back up to the super-layman level: Wha? Yoga? Breathing? I thought yoga was just all about twisting yourself up into a pretzel?
Although some postures are indisputably pretzel-like, yoga is not just the postures, which simply comprise one branch, or limb of yoga called asana. Breathing, or exercises that help lengthen and thereby control (or vice versa) the breath are called pranayama. Now we say “breath” but we really mean “prana”, which is more like “The Force” in Star Wars**.
And if you didn’t click on that wiki link for its definition, I’ll save you the calories: “The Force is a binding, metaphysical and ubiquitous power”. AND:
“In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the original Star Wars film, the Force is first described by the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) as an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds and penetrates living beings and binds the galaxy together.”
Now that you have a better idea of what Prana is, you will hopefully gather that your breath is the grossest manifestation of this ubiquitous energy – it’s the way that humans can relate or deal with prana, and use it for all kinds of things.
Which means, dear readers, that without further ado, we are at the conclusion to this extremely long-winded answer to a simple question. The answer is YES! There are different ways to control your breath for different times of the day – to energize, maintain, and to calm (Ayurvedic afficionados will note that these correspond to the three doshas…huh, how ’bout that!). You’ll find them them below!
Note that, since these practices are explained ad nauseum in countless places on the world wide interwebs, I leave you with nothing but my sometimes-witty commentary. Enjoy!
Kapalabhati (“skull shining” breath): an exercise for the purification of skull and lungs. Use this one when even your morning latte isn’t kicking in and you feel like your nose is anchored to your space bar.
MAINTAINING or BALANCING
Ujayi (“breath of victory”): Some call this “Ocean Breath” or liken it to the wind whistling through the trees, but…okay, I’m going to do it. That’s right, another Star Wars reference: if you do this one and you sound a little like Darth Vader, you’re doing this right. Here’s an audio clip. You’re welcome. :)
Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing): Will balance your masculine/sun/heating and feminine/moon/coolingchannels (or nadis…we’ve got about 72,000 of them.), masculine and feminine energies, your sinuses, AND help calm you down! An amazing deal for such a simple exercise.
Brahmari (“bee or buzzing breath”): Okay this one might solicit a few periscope-heads from your cubicle neighbors, but it’s extremely effective and, if your peeps do pop up with curiosity, ask them to join you. It might provoke a little laughter, which in and of itself is calming!
Sithali (“sipping breath”): This one takes me back to grade school when you and your friends were all, “Can you do THIS? what about THIS??” with your tongues. But it probably doesn’t make you a better French kisser, sorry!
**yes, I know, this post just HAD to contain another (actually, more than one) geeky Star Wars reference. What can I say, I grew up with it. AND, Jedis are yogis, don’t you know??
Posted: June 3rd, 2009 under geekstuff, pranayama.
Tags: alternate nostril breathing, ask the yogi, balance, brahmari, breathing for stress, calm, darth vader, energize, kapalabhati, maintain, nadi shodana, obi wan, pranayama, pranayama techniques, sithali, star wars, stress, ujayi