Breathe In, Glow Out : Intro to Pranayama March 17 2016
If you’ve ever gone to a yoga class, you may have heard the teacher mention ‘prana’ energy. Often, we hear of ‘prana rush’ contributing to the blissful glow one feels after a yoga class. If you’ve never been to a yoga class, or never asked what the word ‘prana’ means, you may still recognize the idea.
Prana has been otherwise known as ‘chi’, ‘qi’, or ‘ka’. More than just breath, prana is considered a life force, what makes us alive in spirit. Through yoga, it is understood that one can use the breath to invite prana energy, and direct it to where we need it most. Pranayamas use the idea of drawing out prana through breath extension or suspension.
By breathing effectively, we can increase our circulation and blood flow which will help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark circles, pale or dull skin, and acne.
Here are 3 yogic breathing practices (read: pranayama) which may enhance the wellbeing of your skin (among other things):
Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
Find a comfortable place to sit. Place your left hand, relaxed, on your left knee, with the palm up. Take your right hand and put your index and middle fingertips between the eyebrows gently, while the ring and little fingers rest on the left nostril and the thumb on the right nostril. Press your thumb down (right nostril) and softly breathe out through the left nostril. Breathe in the left nostril and press the ring and little finger down to close the left nostril. Remove the thumb from the right nostril, breathe out. Breathe in from right nostril and exhale from the left again. Continue this 8 more times, for a total of 9 breaths. Make sure you keep the breath smoothly flowing and gentle, try not to force anything.
This one is my personal favourite - it doesn’t take long at all to experience the mental benefits!
Sheetali (cooling breath)
Sit cross-legged, in whichever way is accessible to you. Roll your tongue into a loop and inhale through the mouth for a count of 4. The exhale should be done through the nostrils, and last about 6 seconds. Sheetali may be practiced for 5 minutes, and will cool the body and mind, lower blood pressure and help you unwind from stressful situations. Consider Sheetali when feeling overwhelmed or mentally ‘heated’.
Sit comfortably. Keep the lips apart while the upper and lower teeth are touching, resting the tongue behind the teeth. Inhale through the mouth with a hissing sound, then exhale through the nostrils. This, too, is a cooling technique which will aid the body in healing from hypertension or digestive stresses.
Note: With any of these exercises, please stop if you begin to feel dizzy, or if you are suffering from very low blood pressure. If you are a vata or a kapha, it may not be wise to practice the latter two exercises in wintertime, as cooling may not be necessary for you!
In addition to incorporating these practices in your daily life, it must also be mentioned that it is important to understand when your breathing is not regular, or is getting ‘caught’ (it doesn’t feel smooth). Usually, this is a signal that your attention is elsewhere, and not in the present moment. Take time throughout the day to check in on your breathing, where it sits naturally, then close your eyes and slow your mind.
Our skin ‘breathes in’ toxins, light, temperatures, and oxygen, while it ‘exhales’ sweat, CO2, skin cells, etc. It shows stress through blemishes, dullness, rashes, and more. Proper and regular breathing practices can reduce anxiety and hypertension, leading to improved appearance of the skin.
Yoga lover or not, we can all agree that taking some time to breathe will always be the right move.
xx Kate Graham
Guest Contributor, @simpletinywonderful | www.simpletinywonderful.com
*Top image via @nudeyogagirl, bottom image via Pinterest