Breathing techniques and meditation do many things, but in this article I am going to focus on a benefit that often gets overlooked: it build emotional resiliency. This means that you are able to bounce back after a stressful situation quicker and more efficiently.
I have good news and bad new...
The bad news is that biologically we are more wired to stress out than to calm down. This was super useful when we lived in the Savannah but nowadays not so much. This is because our organism will always favour the sympathetic nervous system (body's response to stress) over our parasympathetic nervous system (controls bodily function when at rest) , for obvious reasons- its linked to our survival mechanism.
The good news is that we can almost 'turn on' our parasympathetic nervous system, helping us feel safe, grounded and relaxed. With the help of Pranayama, the action of expanding the life force energy in our bodies through intentional breathing, we can:
-> reduce stress
-> reduce depression and anixiety
-> lower and stabilize blood pressure
-> Increase energy levels
-> Improve immunity
Inhale-> Prana (upward energy) Exhale-> Apana (downward energy)
Pranayama is also the expansion of personal energy into cosmic energy. Some are relaxing and some are energising.
We may all benefit from each of the following forms of pranayama because we all have a little of each Dosha within us. Use Vata-balancing pranayama for balance if your mind is racing and you're feeling agitated. Look to the Pitta-balancing technique when you need to unwind and chill down. Use the Kapha-balancing pranayama to give yourself a lift if you're seeking for something exhilarating and energising.
CAUTION:If you're pregnant or suffering from illness, please consult a physician or Ayurveda practitioner before practicing these pranayama techniques. If you need help figuring out which Dosha Type you are or where you are out of balance (either Vata, Pitta, Kapha) then please join my waiting list here.
Balancing Vata: Coherence Breathing
Vata is the dosha that needs breathing exercises most.
When the body is stressed, it often responds by holding its breath (or breathing too quickly). This breathing technique lengthens inhalations and exhalations, making them longer and deeper in order to relax the body and relieve stress. The coherence breathing technique goes as follows (make sure you are breathing deep into you belly all the way into the diaphragm):
Inhale for a count 4
Hold for a count of 5
Exhale for a count of 6
This will help you calm the body through its effect on the autonomic nervous system.
Balancing Pitta: Ujjayi
Ujjayi is the triumphant breath, which relaxes and energises the mind and body at the same time. This breathing technique is also known as victorious breath or ocean breath.
This smooth, rhythmic breathing generates a nice, peaceful sound, akin to the rolling in and out of the ocean waves. It cools and relaxes the mind, body, and mind in the same way that the ocean does.
The defining characteristic of this breath is making an almost whispering sound. The way you can do this pretend there is a mirror right in front of you that you have to fog. That sound you make as you are fogging a mirror or making a silent 'AAAAA' sound, is constriction that happens in the throat. The next step would be to inhale throat the nose and exhale whispering the sound of "AAAAAA' through the nose rather than through the mouth. You make that sound on the inhale and on the exhale.
Instead of breathing deep into our diaphragm, here we are going to breath into our chest and throat, making sure our ribs expand. You can also try breathing out only through your left nostril by placing your thumb on your right nostril. In Ayurveda breathing in through both nostrils and tightening the throat in warming and exhaling through the left nostril is cooling. This way you won't get too overheated, which is especially important for Pittas.
Balancing Kapha: Bhastrika
Bhastrika in effect balancing for all Doshas but particularly useful for Kaphas because its almost like an expresso, as it helps boost the mind and body with rapid inhalation and exhalation, removing the slow 'brain fog' imbalances this Dosha might be experiencing, as well as relieve any excess mucus.
You might want to start by blowing your nose first. Then inhale, rather forcefully into your heart/chest and exhale forcefully too. Don't do this too deep otherwise you might get dizzy and ideally not more than 10 times.
This will also send a lot of blood flow into the skull, so feeling dizzy is natural but please do stop if you feel very dizzy.