Pranayama Techniques to Try

Prana, in Sanskrit, means breath, or vital energy in the body. Pranayama means extending or controlling the breath. By practicing it, we can align our mind and body. The flow of Prana constantly changes based on our emotions, thoughts, and even environmental temperature. If you feel scattered brained, your prana will reflect that. Despite its meaning, Pranayama is less about control and more about becoming aware of and evening out the breath. Practicing can help calm our bodies and minds and restore a natural balance.
Now, how to begin! There are many techniques to try. Using Ujjayi breath is a great place to start. Yogis often use Ujjayi while practicing their asanas. The easiest way to understand how to properly create Ujjayi breath is to start by holding your hand up to your face. With an open mouth, breathe on your hand like you were trying to fog a mirror. Now try it with your mouth closed. You’re breathing in and out through your nose, but you are also warming the throat with each breath. You should be able to hear yourself inhale and exhale, but try not to breathe so loudly that your neighbor can hear. Ujjayi breath is a great basic pranayama technique. It gets the prana flowing evenly throughout the body and mind.
Another slightly more advanced technique is called Nadi Shodhan, or alternate nostril breathing. We all have a masculine (right) and feminine (left) side. This Pranayama technique uses the breath to get rid of Pranic blockages and balance ourselves. To begin, take your right hand and put down your index and middle finger. You will be using your thumb to close the right nostril and your ring finger to close the left. Take a full, clearing breath before you begin. Now, close the right nostril and breathe in through the left, switch nostrils at the top of the inhale, and exhale through the right. Then inhale through the right nostril, switch at the top, and exhale through the left. Repeat this pattern as long as you would like. Just make sure you end with an exhale on the left side to keep balance. If you have sinus problems or congestion, you don’t have to block the nostrils and can perform the same sweeping to both sides mentally.

The best thing to remember with Pranayama is that if it starts feeling too forced or uncomfortable, stop and take a normal breath. Sometimes you just need to restart, or you can try another technique and find what works best for you.