The Eight Limbs of Yoga No.4- Pranayama
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
The fourth limb in the eight limbs of yoga, is pranayama. Simply put, pranayama is the practice of controlling your breath. It is a huge part of the practice of yoga, and intertwines within our physical asana practice that we do in a yoga class. However, it can also be practiced on its own, completely separate to your asana practice.
Physically, a regular pranayama practice can help strengthen our respiratory organs, improve sleep, reduce high blood pressure, improve the functioning of the lungs, and many more! Emotionally, pranayama can help you decrease stress and anxiety. When we feel a certain way, our breath tends to reflect that. If we are feeling stressed and anxious, we tend to breath fast and mostly through the chest, which doesn't always help. By practicing pranayama, we are bringing some control back to the breath and therefore, we can slow the breath down and redirect the breath when we are feeling this way. This in turn, will ease our stress.
There are so many different pranayama techniques to use. You can find a list of these with a simple online search. In this post, I'm going to list my three favourite pranayama techniques which have been the most beneficial to me. You can have a go at these, or look up some of the other techniques and find out what works for you!
Dirga Swasam Pranayama (Full Yoga Breath) - If you attend my yoga classes regularly or watch me on YouTube, you'll know that I adore the full yoga breath. I use it at the beginning of every practice, after meditation, before the asana begins. It's one of the more simple pranayama techniques, and it is a three part breath. You start by breathing through your tummy, then the chest, lifting it up into the collarbones, and then slowly exhaling and letting the breath go. It is incredibly calming. I do this practice of breathing very regularly, especially if I'm experiencing anxiety.
Nadi Shodana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) - This practice of pranayama is another I like to use regularly. It is amazing for stress and nerves, and also if you are suffering from congestion in the nose. It involves carefully breathing through one nostril at a time, usually in for 3 seconds, and out for 6. (Or whatever feels comfortable to you!) I have a tutorial on this on my TikTok profile @hathamoon, if you wanted somewhere to start.
Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath) - Bhramari breathing is also known as bee breath because of the sounds that imitate the buzzing of a bee. It involves inhaling, and on the exhale making a humming sound with the mouth closed. It is usually done for about six rounds. Sometimes, it is practiced with the hands covering the ears or the eyes also. I find this a great pranayama to practice during meditation. I love the vibrations as the breath moves through the body, and I also find it very stimulating for the throat and third eye chakras.
Pranayama is a great thing to start to add to your life if you haven't already. These techniques and many more can really help you become more calm and live more harmoniously in your everyday life. Plus, we always want to be practicing the other limbs in our yoga, not just asana!
I hope you enjoyed this short post on pranayama today. Visit my socials below for more content, otherwise thank you for reading and have a lovely day! Becca x