Pranayama: Simple Instructions for Traditional Breathing Techniques

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Breathing, called Pranayama in Sanskrit, can be a balancing way to start and end each day. Follow this breathing technique for 5-10 minutes at least once per day, and ideally twice per day. You can do the breathing practices any time of the day that works best for you. Use the following breathing meditation techniques to pump prana and oxygen into the brain, allowing for greater stillness and a deeper experience of calm:

Alternate Nostril (Nadi Shodhan) Breathing

  1. Inhale through your right nostril, with left nostril closed.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril, with right nostril closed.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril, with your right nostril closed.
  4. Exhale through your right nostril, with left nostril closed.
  5. Inhale and exhale with deep, long, slow breaths.
  6. Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes.
  7. To close your nostril, hold it gently closed with your finger: with your right hand, use your thumb to close your right nostril and your middle finger to close your left nostril. This makes it easy to smoothly alternate nostrils.

Bellows Breathing (Bhastrika) Meditation

  1. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the nose, filling your entire rib cage. Do not breathe too quickly, or too slowly. This is a medium-paced breath that is slightly forceful.
  2. Do this for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Rest and become still, beginning to meditate.
  4. As you drop into the meditation, thoughts will start to creep in.
  5. When you notice thoughts creeping in, do 15 cycles (inhale/exhale = 1 cycle) of bellows breathing and become still again.
  6. Repeat this pattern – doing 15 cycles of bellows breathing whenever thoughts begin to arise – anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.

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