The Pranayamas – The respiratory techniques
Living is breathing
In Kundalini Yoga breathing techniques are more sophisticated than in other forms of yoga.
Breath, rhythm and depth correlate with different physiological, emotional or mental states.
This means that our state of mind has an influence on the way we breathe and conversely that by acting on our breath, we modify our states of consciousness.
Kundalini Yoga scientifically uses the breath to modify the flow of the energy in the individual and acts on its different states. The following techniques are the most frequently encountered during practice.
Long and deep breathing
The simplest of all yogic breaths is long, deep breathing. This is the natural way of breathing that we rediscover through practice.
To practice deep breathing, always breathe through the nose, starting with the lowest air possible in the abdomen (for this, relax the abdomen and feel it expanding, but leave the perineum tonic), then fill the lungs as much as possible by disengaging the diaphragm downwards so as not to impede the expansion of the lungs. Then let the lungs expand laterally (the shoulders should be relaxed) and at the end of the inhalation, let the upper part of the lungs rise slightly.
Then exhale in the opposite way, let the lungs reduce their upper and then lateral volume, then lift the diaphragm and tuck the abdomen inwards and upwards.
The long and deep breath starts at the end of the inhalation and finishes at the end of the exhalation, thoroughly but without forcing.
Long and deep breathing allows the mind to stay steady, you gain endurance and patience. Yogis say that if the respiratory rate drops below 4 times per minute the pineal gland is stimulated and the state of deep meditation is reached.
Natural breathing to learn again
In our society, the usual tendency is to breathe superficially and irregularly. This promotes uncontrolled emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of life as well as tensions and dysfunctions of the nervous system.
The lungs of man can grow to an average capacity of 6000 cm3.
The respiratory system allows the body to obtain oxygen and eliminates carbon dioxide, it also regulates the body’s pH (acidity-alkalinity balance), and allows the release of water vapor, hydrogen and small amounts of methane.
Usually we do not use more than 600 to 700 cc on the total capacity. If the volume of air absorbed is not increased it makes it more and more difficult to clean the mucous membranes through the cells (small air sacs in the lungs). Consequently, oxygen is not as well assimilated which can lead to infections in the long run and allows the disease to settle more easily in people.
This is one of the most used breaths in Kundalini Yoga.
It is therefore particularly important to master this technique from the beginning of the practice.
It is also a breath that we “understand quickly” and that we “rediscover our entire life”.
Fire breathing is a dynamic, abdominal breath that is practiced through the nose.
When exhaling, the air is projected outside by a powerful movement of the abdomen inwards (one enters the abdomen, at the level of the navel, towards the vertebral column), which presses on the diaphragm.
On inspiration, the abdomen is projected outward, by such a powerful movement that the abdomen is projected outwards.
Inspirations and exhalations are balanced and of equal power (how it is different from “Kapalabhati Pranayam” where the emphasis is on expiration).
The impression is to breathe only through the abdomen.
In this movement, the area of the chest must remain relaxed, the perineum remains firm, the diaphragm is relaxed so is the abdomen.
The breathing rate is fast (2 to 3 breaths per second), continuous and powerful. There is no pause between the inhale and exhale.
This breathing is especially effective at cleaning the blood and helps eliminate toxins from the lungs, blood vessels and cells.
During the breath of fire, the energy is concentrated on the navel area, at the level of the 3rd Chakra, which helps to unblock this center which is the center of the physical and mental balance of the person.
In addition, this breath makes the muscles that help the breathing process work, so that they are given the right habits to promote their effectiveness. There is an expansion of the diaphragm on the inhale, and retraction on the exhale.
Breath with a rolled tongue
This breath is used to reduce fever and regulate blood pressure, as well as to stimulate the processes of digestion.
It is necessary to roll the tongue (bringing both sides of the tongue to form a roll) and slightly open the mouth so that the rolled tongue comes out slightly. Then the air is sucked in by the rolled tongue, with the same abdominal, diaphragmatic and pulmonary movements as in long and deep breathing.
Here one breaks up the breath by breathing in small puffs. These puffs are usually brief and powerful.
A specific ratio is maintained between the time and number of breaths and the internal or external retention of air in the lungs.
Each ratio produces a specific effect.
Here are some classic ratios:
Inhale-hold full lungs-exhale -retention on empty lungs (1-4-2-0) – (4-16-2-0) – (4-0-1-0) and (1-8-1-8)
For example, the ratio (4-0-1-0) is used to promote the healing process (develop self-healing energy) and to fight depression: Inhale by fragmenting the inhalation into 4 segments of half a second each (feel the nostrils swell with each inhale). Do not hold your lungs full. Exhale in one exhalation, always through the nose. Do not keep empty lungs.
Concentrate on the flow of the breath and try to keep the inhalation and exhalation segments equal to each other.
We are breathing here through a small hole that is formed in the middle of the mouth while advancing the lips (as if we were aspiring from a straw).
The inhale is a sharp and produces a regular whistling while the exhale is done slowly through the nose. There is a variation in which we reverse the process: inhale by the nose, exhale by mouth whistling. The focus is on the sound. This pranayama acts on the blood circulation and stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Exhalation in cannonball
The focus here is on the exhalation as the inhalation usually being a long inhalation from the nose.
Once the lungs are full, all the air cumulated in the lungs is ejected by the mouth with great power, as if a cannonball was thrown by the mouth.
Simhasana Pranayam – Lion’s Breath
The lion’s breath is a powerful breath working on the emotional levels and on the energies of elimination.
Whatever one’s posture, breathe through a wide open month by pulling the tongue as far as possible down, as if the intent is to touch the tip of your chin with the tip of the tongue.
This breath, which relaxes deep emotional tension, has a purifying effect on the liver and soothes the mind.
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