In yoga, breath is everything. Through therapeutic breathing techniques called pranayama you can use your breath to do anything from relaxing your body, to stimulating energy, to detoxing, to helping your body prepare to eat and even clearing stuffed sinuses. Here’s a taster guide
TO ENERGISE The Victorious or ‘Ujjayi’ Breath
When While working through postures or anytime for an invigorating effect.
- Sit cross-legged or lie down with support such as a bolster or rolled blanket under your back. Broaden the chest and draw the chin slightly inwards.
- Exhale fully. Inhale through both nostrils and exhale through the mouth silently making the sound ‘Ha’. Continue in this way for about three breaths.
- Now close the mouth and continue silently making the sound of ‘Ha’ as you inhale and exhale. Feel the gentle constriction in the throat this produces and listen to the slight ‘hissing’ sound the breath takes on – this is correct.
- Continue breathing in this way with the throat constricted but directing the breath deep into the lungs and feel the chest open and diaphragm expand sideways as you do so.
- Beginners only do around 3-5 minutes of this practice and slowly build up to 10-15 minutes over time. See Healthista TV’s tutorial video for Ujjayi breathing from yoga teacher Lisa Sanfilippo
TO CLEAR SINUSES Alternate nostril breathing or ‘Nadi Sodhana’
When Daily to help clear blocked sinuses – you’ll feel blocked up at first but keep at it and over time, done daily for a couple of minutes can help keep sinuses clear. This breathing can also be done before presentations to calm nerves, before bed or anytime you need to feel more centred.
- Sit in an easy cross-legged pose on the floor, supported by a cushion if that’s more confortable.
- Place the left hand on the knee and fold the index and middle finger of the right hand inwards to the palm and wrap the thumb around them.
- Draw the chin slightly inwards so the head bows down slightly. Close the eyes.
- Bring your right hand up to your face and use the ring finger to close the left nostril. Exhale completely through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril.
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb and release the ring finger from the left nostril.
- Exhale through the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. This is one cycle. Inhale again through the right nostril continue in this way for 10-30 cycles. Beginners start with ten and build up around five cycles a week to 30.
- Ensure you are not slouching throughout the practice and keep the spine long, shoulders relaxed and chest open.
Need more help with your sinuses? Sterimar Seawater Nasal Spray £6.99 from Boots is amazing – use it daily in the shower to help cleanse the nasal passages (it’s great for kids too). The PR people tell us they’re about to launch a new one to help relieve congestion, we will report on this next week as soon as we know. Alternatively, you can try nasal washing with a neti-pot, another technique that yogis use to clear sinuses. Getting it right can be hit and miss but here are some good instructions from The Himalayan Institute
TO STIMULATE DIGESTION Bellows or ‘Kapalabhati’ breathing
When Great first thing in the morning before breakfast or before any meal but never after eating, during menstruation or if you’re pregnant.
- Sit in an easy cross legged pose on the floor and focus for a moment on your breathing.
- Now, close the mouth and on each exhalation through the nose, simply draw your abdomen inward. Imagine the navel moving upwards and inwards as you exhale. Let the inhale happen naturally.
- Do this a few times and you’ll notice the abdomen moving in and out like a bellows.
- Now, speed up the exhalation so you’re taking one each second.
- You should be able to hear the exhalation but not the inhalation. This is correct. Do about 30 exhalations, rest and start another cycle. Beginners start with a minute or so and build up to five minutes.
Tip: Focus on drawing the abdomen back, as though you’re pulling your navel to your spine on each quick exhalation – about one per second – and don’t worry about the inhalation, it will happen naturally.