Breath is a powerful connecting force between the mind and the body. Building and expanding on our breath not only increases vitality and energy, it can also be an amazing healing tool. Although it is recommended to have an experienced teacher before beginning any significant breathwork practice, anyone can initiate this journey with some simple steps and create a 15 minute practice. This practice can be added to a regular yoga asana practice or meditation practice.
- Identify a dry comfortable area to practice in.
- Limit distractions such as turning off or down your cellphone
- Wait a little after eating so you don’t have a full stomach. A little water before starting can be helpful.
- Avoid coffee before practicing.
- Decide on time to practice. Early morning is an ideal time to practice before your money cup of coffee/tea.
- Lie on your back or find a comfortable sitting position.
- Begin by just observing and tracking the breath as it comes in through your nose and down your windpipe into your diaphragm and track as it exits the body.
- Spend 5-10 minutes practicing observing.
- Spend the next 5-10 minutes focusing on long slow exhales.
- Sit in quiet for 3-5 minutes with normal breath.
At this point the work is on being the observer. Breathwork is not completed by “controlling” or forcing the breath, it is done effectively by observing and “playing” with the breath. If your goal in breathwork is increased vitality and wellness, then the safest way to begin your practice is by observing where you are first. This takes time and cannot be determined with one breathing practice session but must be observed over time. Variables like a new stressor or trying something for the first time can alter your baseline habits. Overtime however one can determine the average count and length of the breath and identify a good goal to work on. The goal is usually in lengthening both inhales and exhales comfortably without strain. This will increase vitality. However sometimes a person may need more help specifically with inhaling or exhaling and a trained instructor can guide the person in their practice. There are also techniques like holds and various therapeutic practices that can target a particular healing aspect of the breath. For more information on pranayama, a good book to reference is The Yoga of Breath: a Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen.