On an ordinary day generally we breath 16 times a minute, 960 breaths an hour and 23,040 breaths a day. How many of those breaths do you notice? Unless you're doing a breathing practice or physical exercise most of your breaths will probably go unnoticed!
Paige Pranayama (a form of breathwork) is a way of awakening systems of the body and mind. In Sanskrit ‘prana’ means life energy and ‘yama’ means control. The practice includes certain breath techniques and with commitment can enhance life force, reduce stress and anxiety, improve health and consciousness and support purification of the body’s systems.
Consistent pranayama practice can help lower symptoms of anxiety, stress, reduce brain fog and enhance clarity.
You’re probably thinking how is this possible from just breathing? Think Vagus Nerve! The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves. In Latin ‘vagus’ means ‘wandering’ as it wanders from your brain to belly and belly to brain. You may have heard that your gut can talk to your brain, and this is how! When coping with stress, feelings of anxiousness or fear the vagus nerve sends a message from the gut to the brain. This can also explain when you may have a ‘gut feeling’ about something.
Toning the vagal nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system which turns off the fight or flight response. Fight or flight is fantastic when in danger if you need to fight or run but this is very rarely needed. Often our stress response can be triggered by non-life threatening everyday stressors such as work, being stuck in traffic, financial pressures and anxiety. Constantly being exposed to these stressors our body’s respond to the stress by releasing adrenaline and cortisol which can cause symptoms such brain fog, tiredness, tension physically and mentally. Toning the vagal nerve shuts down the stress response, this is huge! If there were a ‘magic pill’ to reduce stress this is it. So, how do you tone the vagal nerve? Vagal nerve toning is strongest when you are exhaling and heart rate is lowest. In pranayama practice the exhale is often extended. When we are able to de-activate and reduce stress and feelings of anxiety we create space for energy, clarity, peace and joy.
There are different types of Pranayama Breath techniques, here are a few:
Agni Sara: Is a powerful practice that is energising, promotes digestion, supports elimination and can bring clarity. Agni means fire (relating to digestion) and Sara means waterfall (relating to elimination). This practice is best done sitting up. Inhale through your nose and then exhale through your nose. At the bottom of the exhale hold your breath and pump your belly all the way back, neutral, and out in front which are the 3 points. Repeat the pumping of the 3 points until needing to comfortably inhale. Repeat this 3-5 times.
Breath of fire with spinal twist: This is an energising and warming practice which can help to reduce brain fog. Start sitting up straight with hands on shoulders, thumbs at the back of your shoulders and elbows out wide. As you inhale through your nose twist to the right and as you exhale through your nose twist to the left. The power of the breath will match you’re movement and it can be done as fast or as slow as needed. Repeat for 45 seconds. Return to neutral as you inhale and hold the breath at the top of the inhale for 45 seconds if comfortable.
Viloma 2: The inhalation correlates with heating, so this practice is energising. The inhalation is broken into 3 parts by 3 short pauses. The exhalation is natural.
Viloma 1: The exhalation correlates with cooling, so this practice is calming. The exhalation is broken into 3 parts by 3 short pauses. The inhalation is natural.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate nostrils breathing is very calming for the nervous system and can assist in reducing feeling of stress and anxiety. It is great to do at the end of the breath practice to bring balance to the feminine and masculine channels. It usually done sitting up but can also be done laying down. Begin by placing your right index finger and middle finger in between the space of your eyebrows and exhale all air from lungs. Thumb closes right nostril inhale through left nostril for a count of 4. Ring finger closes the left nostril to hold the breath for 4 seconds. Release thumb to exhale through the right nostril. Close both nostrils to hold the breath for 4 counts. The next inhalation is through the open left nostril, then thumb is placed back onto right nostril to exhale through left nostril. A regular practice includes each inhale, exhale and hold of breath for a count of 4 and continues for 10 cycles, finishing with an exhalation through the left.
If you’re a little bit lost on where to start in your breath work practice, you can book in a private session with one of our breath work facilitators here
The Natural Health & Wellness Clinic
(03) 5977 7342