We are indeed in a unique and transformational time as we witness our world's response to the Coronavirus. There has been a complete upheaval to daily life, and it has left many of us without regular avenues of stability. This has caused stress and panic for many people, as abrupt uncertainty tends to do. So, it is vital now more than ever to maintain health and wellness on all levels, and to remember that everything in life, including the challenges, is an opportunity for us to develop deeper levels of strength, love, and compassion. Yoga, Reiki, breathing techniques, and other mindfulness practices teach us how to move calmly through the ups and downs of existence with more grace and awareness. Through these holistic practices we remember how to deactivate fear-based mindsets and activate calm and clarity of mind.
What’s the first thing a yoga or meditation instructor usually asks you to do at the beginning of a class? Usually, it’s to begin focusing on your breath. Breathing techniques, or Pranayama, are a powerful tool to regain control of anxious thought patterns. Pranayama has physiological benefits as well, by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system which science tells us can slow down heart rate and increase digestion as the body becomes more relaxed. Typically, when we are stressed, breathing becomes more shallow and rapid, and heart-rate increases. As you can imagine this causes a chain of events physiologically, that can lead to increased anxiety and even ailments such as dizziness or nausea. If we remember to pause, and take a slow breath, we can regain control over our system.
Regulated breathing is an unbelievably powerful tool and meditation technique that has been utilized by yoga practitioners for at least two-thousand years or more. Pranayama is a branch of the 8-Limbed yogic path, or yogic guidelines, and is a key process in the overall practice of yoga. The word “prana” translates roughly to life-force energy, and the word “yama” roughly translates to restraint. Therefore, Pranayama goes beyond the actual breathing techniques themselves, and truly describes the connection of life-force energy within the body. Breathing exercises are practiced to keep the body clear from physical, energetic, and emotional blockages, so that your life force energy becomes healthy and balanced. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite breathing techniques for stress relief, called Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
The word “nadi” generally translates to channel, and “shodhana” approximately translates to purifying. Therefore, Nadi Shodhana is a potent breathing technique for clearing the inner subtle channels of the body and has been known to have an overall balancing effect.
How To Practice
1. Press your pointer and middle finger between your eyebrows, take one deep cycle of breath.
2. Then press your thumb against your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril for a count of 4-8 seconds, hold at the top of your inhale plug both nostrils, press your left nostril with your ring and pinkie finger to exhale through your right nostril for the same count, pause at the bottom of your exhale.
3. Keep fingers as they are and breathe through the right nostril to repeat the cycle in the other direction.
Practice as many cycles as you'd like, I would recommend at least 9 cycles if you can. If you can increase the length of your cycles you are welcome to do so, you may find that your lung capacity and breath control increase with practice. Once you are finished with your cycles take a couple deep rounds of breath regularly. How do you feel?
Simply focusing on slowing down your breath is incredibly beneficial as well. Often referred to as Belly Breathing, as you inhale let your belly extend with a gentle hold at the top of your breath, and keep your shoulders relaxed. As you exhale draw your belly back in towards your spine, pause at the bottom of your breath. Go through as many cycles as you would like, and keep your jaw as relaxed as possible. It can be helpful to place your hands on your lower belly and chest, so you can feel where your breath is going first.
Remember, you have the power to shift your energy and mindset, it takes practice. Take 5 slow, deep breaths right now. Your mind is clear and calm, you are in control.
With 6+ years of yoga experience, Christine Fronterotta is passionate about sharing the gifts of mindfulness and wellness. Her ample teaching experiences include her years in yoga studio management, teaching abroad in Costa Rica, yoga for schools, company yoga, and much more. She is a certified Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fuses these techniques in her teaching and healing sessions. Additionally she is a Yoga Educator with well over 1,000 hours of yoga instruction, and has certified many students to become instructors. Currently she teaches yoga for companies, privately, in studios, and for special events. Christine writes regularly for YogaRenew Teacher Training. She is passionate about offering a healing and teaching yoga to others.