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Pranayama 101

       

Prana is our life force, traveling along our breath. Yama is control or modification. Pranayama is breathwork and the effects are nothing short of life-changing!

 

 

Pranayama is effective and efficient. In just a few moments you feel completely recalibrated, centered and inspired. Here is a simple practice you can do at home. If you have 10 minutes, you can do it in 10, if you have 15 minutes, stretch it out a bit. It’s as simple as this:

Find a seat. Sit on a block if you have it, or pull cushions from the couch. Whether you are kneeling or cross-legged, you want your seat to be above your knees so that your pelvis is upright and you can really plug into the earth with your perineum.

 1.  KAPPALABHATI WITH HANDS AS CUPS. 

Kappalbhati is a powerful detoxifying practice. Close your eyes, extend your arms up, make your hands into cups that hold water and begin to pump your breath. Ideally, short, sharp exhalations through the nose (if you can’t do the nose, the mouth is ok and know that one day the nasal passages will open and you will be able to do it). Start with 50 pumps and work up to 100. After you complete your rounds, inhale and bring your thumbs to touch, hold the air in for a moment, and then imagine the exhale of a popping cork at the crown of the head as you allow your thumbs to release and your arms to float back down. Place your hands on your lap and again make them into cups that hold water.  Give yourself a second to stabilize and “catch the grace.”

 2.  STRIKE THE MATCH.

This exercise is designed to build heat and get your lower body, your most primal self, activated and hot. Create a connection between your hands and either your kneecaps, your hips or your heels, try out different points until you find what you like. Start to tilt your pelvis, first so it is tipped forward and you are on your pubic bone and then back, so you are way back on your tail. Gradually begin to increase your pace so that you are creating friction and “striking a match.” Add the breathing, inhaling when you are back on your tail and exhaling as you move forward to your pubic bone.  Whip yourself into a frenzy and then when you’ve had enough, inhale and reach your arms up, hook your thumbs, hold full for a moment and then release your breath and your arms, “popping the cork.” Become still and make your hands into cups on your lap. Calm your breathing and allow the heat of the effort to disperse.

 3.  STIR IT UP.

Place your hands on your knees, hips or heels and begin to make circles with your lower body, essentially “stirring up” the water that descends to the base of the pelvis. Use your imagination as a big wooden spoon and go to work! After stirring in one direction, switch direction and continue for the same amount of time (start with 30 seconds each direction and go up from there).

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 4. BELLOWS.

This exercise consists of a strong inhale as you twist to the left and and a forceful exhale as you twist right. You may get dizzy or disoriented slightly, if that happens just slow down and really draw out your breath as you twist. As you become more proficient, you will speed up this exercise, effectively wringing out the middle of the body. Start with 50 and move towards a count of 100. Finish with a big inhale hooking your thumbs overhead, a brief hold and an exhale imagined out through the crown. With your hands in cups after the exhalation, see fire, the image of effort, rising up your back and on the exhale see rain, the image of grace, descending down your front, falling into your hands.

 5.  KAPPALBHATI TO FAN THE HEART.

This last technique is meant to fan the heart in case it has become overheated or too acute. Start with one hand in front of your heart and the arm extended. With each exhale, switch the position of your hands fanning you heart.  After 50 or 100 counts, inhale and reach your arms up overhead, hook your thumbs, hold the air in, try for 3 more little sips of air in, hold a little bit longer and “pop the cork” and let the gift waves of your practice rain down your circumference! Give yourself a moment with your hands in cups on your laps, and soak in the experience!

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