Breath brings us back to our true selves. It is free. Powerful. Offers harmony and escape from our stress. It is the essence of life. What’s not to love about this practice?
Breathwork has caught the attention of many in recent years. With bigger personal brands like the Whim Hoff Method of breathing to endure cold through to books on the topic hitting mainstream media. So what is all the fuss about? How does breathwork, breathing and pranayama differ?
As a busy mum, marketing consultant and yoga teacher. My time, like many others today is limited. I have limited time for spiritual practices but breathwork is something I come back to (almost) every day even just for a few minutes to regulate my mind and energy. My intention here is to explore a few techniques and why to focus some time on conscious breathing before the holiday period.
Studies have shown breathwork can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, depression insomnia, PTSD, and ADD. Breathwork is the quickest way to change our state of being and point of view at any moment.
Breathwork and pranayama are not dissimilar to one another. Breathwork’ is also the official term used to describe Conscious, Connected Breathwork, or CCB. The term ‘Breathwork’ without a space between ‘breath’ and ‘work’ is the official term used to describe all variants of Conscious, Connected Breathwork (CCB); and this is the practice that has seen a major boom in popularity over the past 5 years. (If you would like to find out more about The History of Modern Breathwork, click here).
While the methods, environment, and tools used differ among CCB variants, they all share the technique of having no pause between the inhale and exhale. CCB sessions are typically between 30 to 120 minutes in length. According to the Alchemy of Breath website ‘maintaining a deep and connected breath for such a long duration can be difficult on your own. As a result, you will find most CCB is done with a facilitator, who is there to coach you on the technique, encourage you to keep with it, and hold space for the deep inner journey that CCB brings you on’.
Pranayama is an ancient yogic breath practice. Prana in Sanskrit is “life force energy” and yama refers to expansion, extension, regulation and control. The term Pranayama literally means “expansion of life force (prana) and its purpose is to improve the body’s capacity to retain and increase prana in the body. Through controlling the breath, the mind is controlled and Prana is directed. Pranayama is a practice to prepare for meditation and is very purifying.
Pranayama utilises all five tools to direct and retain prana
Whether you wish to explore a breath work class with a facilitator or wish to take a few conscious breaths at home, both pranayama and breath work practices are incredibly powerful tools to cultivate great awareness of the self.
Adopting a breathing practice connects us with our innate wisdom and brings greater awareness of our true self, our life and the decisions we make that impact our overall wellbeing and happiness. December is a particularly busy time of year, adding to that is the heat (pita quality) of summer. The longer daylight hours, social activities and fiery nature of pita can often leave us feeling exhausted and frazzled. Read on for some simple practices to help you come back to your true self this December.
Finally, as you know, breath is free and available to us whenever we need it – I really is a powerful tool to create harmony and peace in our life. Whether you dedicate 30 mins daily or 5 mins when you can, I can promise you will feel a shift in your energy almost immediately. The longer you can commit the more benefit you will get from your practice.
Notice your breathing right now:
Before reading on, close your eyes and give yourself a few minutes to simply observe the natural occurrence of breath in your body. There is no need to judge or analyse, simply notice.
My go to breathing exercise for calm is box breathing.
Box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, involves exhaling to a count of four, holding your lungs empty for a four-count, inhaling at the same pace, and holding air in your lungs for a count of four before exhaling and beginning the pattern anew. It is easy and very calming for the mind and body.
Simply relax your body and do the following:
If you would like to experience a guiding pranayama class, watch this excellent video by Arhanta Yoga. https://www.arhantayoga.org/blog/difference-pranayama-breathing-exercises/
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Ahimsadhara is an expert teacher and author in yoga for trauma survivors. After teaching War Veterans for many years, she is now focusing on international programs and further writing. In this class, she uses asanas to help with healthy breathing and as a preparation for pranayama and yoga nidra.
Angela is an experienced Yogi and Dru Teacher Trainer, environmental campaigner, peace educator, and avid traveller, always seeking the best methods to promote health through Dru Yoga’s practices. Join Angela on the mat for a simple journey through energy block release, alignment with sequence, asana and mudra to leave you feeling refreshed, inspired and welcoming change.
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