Breath work can have a highly positive impact on our health, from reducing anxiety, pain, depression and anger to helping us sleep better, improving digestion and boosting our immune system. Here are two of my personal favourite breath work techniques.
Kapalbhati pranayama (breath of fire)
Kapalbhati pranayama/breathing is a special breathing technique practised in Hatha and Kundalini yoga and is performed by inhaling and exhaling through the nose very vigorously. The body is still and relaxed but the abdomen is moving out and up on the inhale and in and down on the exhale, like a balloon. You can start doing it a slow pace and then get faster once you have the correct rhythm as it is not such an easy technique to master right away. It is worth looking at some Youtube videos on how this type of pranayama is done. Kapalbhati is known as the breath of fire as it generates heat and increases your energy level by activating the flow of energy in your body. It improves digestion, build lung capacity, oxygenates your blood, helping the body to detoxify and eliminate waste more efficiently, and regulates the pituitary gland which in turn regulate the entire glandular system and the nervous system. It also increases the physical endurance when needed as in a survival situation and regains control in a stressful situation.
a. Sit down cross legged, or if you prefer on a chair or even on the edge of a sofa or bed, but make sure your legs are at the same level with your hips, not higher. Make sure your back is straight and you are sitting tall.
b. Start by taking a deep breath in form your nose, filling the belly with oxygen and then exhaling out all the C02.
c. Place your hands on your belly
d. Take a quick ‘sip’ of air through your nose and expel it out through your nose just as quickly.
e. Your belly should go out on the inhale and in on the exhale.
f. Carry on for a few minutes, take a 60 second break and do it again. Eventually you can carry on for much longer and increase the speed.
Tummo breathing is a meditation technique which hails from Tibet and has been used by the Buddhist monks for centuries. This technique is believed to remove any thoughts of wrong doing. It is also highly beneficial for withstanding the cold and can be done before having a cold shower (which also has benefits). Tummo will help you to focus better by calming the mind and relaxing the body. It will help you to breathe better in everyday life and it is beneficial for your lungs as well as your overall health as it lowers blood pressure, increases endorphins and helps to increase physical endurance.
Here is how you do it:
a. As with Tummo breathing, sit down cross legged, or on a chair or on the edge of a sofa or bed, keeping your legs the same level as your hips, not higher. Sit tall and keep your back straight.
b. Rub your hands together to generate heat and place them over your belly. If you are female, place your right and on your belly (masculine yang) and place your left hand (feminine yin) on top of it.
c. Start to breath in deeply form your nose and out from your nose.
d. Clear your mind from any thoughts.
e. Imagine a fire burning in your stomach or if that is too graphic just imagine a warm ball of golden light
f. Start with a long exhale, clearing your lungs from all the air inside them. Rock slightly forward when exhaling.
g. Breathe in from your nose very deeply so that there is a lot of sound. Rock slightly back opening the chest and expanding the stomach when inhaling.
h. Repeat this for four times
i. On the fifth breath in, hold your breath for a few seconds – in the beginning just hold for five seconds and increase the time once you have been practicing this for a few weeks.
j. Whilst holding visualise the fire burning or the ball of light glowing with in your stomach, giving you energy.
k. Exhale slowly through the mouth, releasing any blockages or negativity.
l. Do this for another two rounds or more if you are comfortable.