Friday, June 29, 2012

Positive Breathing

This breathing is considered a basic pranayama technique. What is pranayama, exactly? Well, prana is the life energy that animates our bodies and regulates respiration; yama means “control”. Therefore, Pranayama (the fourth limb of Astanga Yoga) is typically defined as “breath control”, and the overall purpose of these practices is to unite the upward- and downward-flowing energies in our bodies and travel them up the Sushumna Nadi (the main nadi, or channel, in our astral body, usually equated with the spinal cord of the physical body). This activates the chakras (primary energy centers of the body) along the way, bringing our consciousness higher and higher, until we realize Divine Perception.

Positive breathing, specifically, is intended to increase feelings of positivity, contentment, and peace (as you might have guessed). Before we explain Positive Breathing, though, we have to explain just a few more Sanskrit terms: "jnana mudra" and "vishnu mudra".

Mudras in this context can simply be thought of as ways of holding your hands (the word is typically translated as "seal" or “gesture”). Jnana mudra is easy, and you've definitely seen it before: just join the thumb and first finger of your LEFT hand and place the back of the hand on your knee or thigh. It's the classic position of the hands that you think of, when you think of someone meditating:

Vishnu mudra is a little more complicated, but don't worry.:) You do this one with your RIGHT hand during positive breathing. You fold the index and middle fingers in towards the palm and leave the thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger extended.

So your left hand will stay near your lap in jnana mudra, and your right hand, which is in vishnu mudra, will be used to seal your nostrils (you'll understand in a minute). In positive breathing, we breathe through the right nostril only; we accomplish this by using the ring finger of the right hand to block the left nostril.

However, the man pictured above is slightly incorrect; you don't want your pinky finger to touch your face at all (nor the fingers that are folded, which he shows nicely). Other than that you can follow this picture.

SO! Now that we've explained the hands, we can talk about the actual practice of Positive Breathing. Most pranayama exercises are composed of three parts, and Positive Breathing is no exception; we have inhalation (puraka), retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (rechaka). For positive breathing, begin by exhaling completely through both nostrils. With your left nostril closed (see above), inhale through the right nostril for 8 counts (you set the speed of the counts, but try to keep a reasonably slow and steady pace). Then, use the thumb to block the right nostril (in ADDITION to having the left nostril already blocked), and hold your breath for 6 counts. Then, release your thumb (still blocking the left nostril with the ring finger) and exhale through the right nostril for 8 more counts. This is “one round” of Positive Breathing.

So only your thumb should move for the duration of Positive Breathing. The right nostril is associated with the Pingala nadi, which represents masculine/solar/active energy in the body – we stimulate these energies by breathing only through the right nostril. Just FYI, Ida and Pingala nadis are secondary energy channels of the body that overlap and cross the Sushumna nadi (Ida is associated with the left nostril).

As stated in the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training manual: "Be sure to check that Positive Breathing is done only through the right nostril. This breathing increases positive feelings, improves digestion and generates heat…”
Sri Dharma Mittra always says, "After 20 minutes of Positive Breathing, you are ready to face a firing squad." 

Author: Danielle Gray, Online Media Manager at DYNYC

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