PRANAYAMA (Breathing)  
by: Vasanthi Bhat (vasanthi@vasanthayoga.com)

Yoga, along with its numerous benefits is being recognized by a large number of people every day around the world, but one of its most beneficial aspects is often overlooked. That, of course is breathing. Breathing is something all people do, but doing it correctly is quite another matter. Practicing controlled yogic breathing, or Pranayama is a very valuable technique that leads to a better and healthier lifestyle. There are several breathing techniques that can be utilized to relax one´s body and mind. Some of these include simple breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and complete breathing.

Simple breathing is a great technique to start out with because it is the base of all the other breathing techniques. It can be used not only to become aware of one´s breath, but relieve the tension accumulated from a long day at school or work. This can be done either lying down or sitting as long as your back is straight and you feel comfortable. In order to do simple breathing you should close your eyes and observe your natural breathing. By taking time out to observe your breathing, you become more aware of its pattern and changes. You should continue to do slow breathing through your nostrils while slightly expanding your stomach and chest muscles, Doing just one to two minutes of this simple breathing will make you more relaxed and will alleviate some of the stress you encounter in a day.

Alternate nostril breathing is another technique that has a variety of advantages. Some practice it to attain tranquillity and to have a balanced peace of mind. Others practice it to ease their difficulty in breathing or to clear the blockage in their nostrils if they have sinus problems. While sitting down and closing your eyes put your first two fingers in between your eyebrows and close your right nostril with your thumb, Inhale with your left nostril and close it with the ring finger. Opening your right nostril, breathe out gently, then breathe in through the same nostril and close it. Open your left nostril, breathing out, and continue to follow this alternating pattern. After doing a couple of rounds of this, your breathing will naturally get deeper and smoother.

Complete breathing has lots of benefits ranging from improving good circulation to revitalizing your energy. While doing natural breathing you should pull in your stomach while breathing out. When you are breathing in, raise your stomach slightly and breathe upward while expanding your chest. When you are exhaling, remember to pull in your stomach because exhalation is the most important part of complete breathing. Observe how smoothly the breathing flows because this increased awareness purifies all the breathing channels and, allows you to breathe correctly.

It is probably obvious now to those who overlooked the importance of proper breathing as to how very essential it is to various aspects of our lives. Doing good breathing is important not only to relieve the stress, but also to improve life and give a better outlook to it by rejuvenating both our body and mind.