by Liz McCollum Lord
Pranayama is an integral part of the yoga practice, but one that I don’t often think about. Most kriyas and meditations incorporate some type of breathing because of its numerous benefits. Somehow though, I had allowed myself to forget the powerful benefits that just a few minutes of focused pranayama can provide. Thankfully at Sat Nam Fest, I attended two classes that brought pranayama back to the forefront of my mind! Akasha closed out his class by teaching Breath of Ten, which is a wonderfully healing breath. And in the Ayurvedic class with Jai Dev Singh, we experienced several intense breathing practices that really shifted my energy drastically.
With that in mind, I came back home with pranayama on my mind. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this past month would end up being one of the most stressful months I’ve had in a long time. Many times I asked myself what more could possibly go wrong, only to be met with another challenge. The cumulative effects of the stress I was under actually made me start to get sick. Fortunately, I was about to take hold of my mind before things got too bad, and I looked for some powerful but quick meditations I could do to boost my health and get my situation back under control. Here are two of my favorites:
“Sixteen-Stroke Breath to Rebuild Health” is a simple meditation you can do to rebuild your body on a cellular and glandular level. Yogi Bhajan taught that by breathing in strokes we can massage the areas of the brain around the nasal cavity. It helps to set up a rhythmic flow of prana in the body.
To practice this meditation, sit in Easy Pose. Hold your hands palms together at the level of the heart, elbows resting on your sides. Interlace your fingers, but do not cross the thumbs. They will rest side by side. Inhale in 16 rapid strokes through the nose, keeping time by mentally vibrating Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma. The inhalation should take approximately 6 seconds. Then exhale in 16 equal strokes, again mentally vibrating Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma, Sa Ta Na Ma. The exhalation should also take about 6 seconds. Continue this breath pattern. You can start with 3-5 minutes and work your way up to a maximum of 31 minutes. Be careful not to over do it!
“Boost Your Immune System” is another great meditation that uses Dog Breath to detoxify and revitalize your body. Yogi Bhajan taught that, when practiced correctly, Dog Breath “will take away all possibility of those diseases which are to your blood and are the cause of internal heat. Inner poison causes internal heat.” Dog Breath helps to remove mucous and toxins from the body.
To practice this meditation, sit in Easy Pose, with your chest lifted and your chin pulled in slightly. Stick your tongue out as far as possible and begin Dog Breath. Continue the breath for 3-5 minutes. To end the meditation, inhale and suspend the breath, and press your tongue against the roof of your mouth for 15 seconds. Exhale, and repeat twice more.
So whether you are under a lot of stress, need an immune boost, or just want to balance your system, pranayama can help. When all else fails, remember to breathe!
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