There are many types of pranayama practice. Some energise the body, whilst others can make the body feel more restful. There are some basic things to consider before starting a pranayama practice. As with yoga, be mindful that this is your practice. You can start with a couple of minutes a day and over time extend the length of your practice to 5, 10 or 20 minutes (etc.) at your own pace. You can also practice more often than once a day.
Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. It’s a good idea to practice in an environment at room temperature, one that is not too hot or cold as temperature can affect breathing. For example, cold can restrict breathing by constricting the airways.
It’s not advisable to practice if your airways are blocked or you have difficulty breathing. Trying to force air in and out of the body when the sinuses are blocked can cause tension. It’s a good idea to blow your nose before you begin as this allows the breath to pass more freely through the airways.
Find a comfortable position to practice pranayama, as you may be in that position for a while. You are less likely to fidget and the mind is less likely to become distracted if you are comfy. This will provide you more space to focus on your practice.
How the body is positioned for pranayama is important. The goal is to position the body so that the airways are open and not constricted. How you sit depends on the level of flexibility in the body. Full lotus is a preferred position as it enables the body to sit upright, keeping the airways open. You can also sit in half lotus or with the legs crossed. If sitting cross legged is difficult or causes pain, try heroes pose – you can use a rolled up pillow or place a block under your bottom (in heroes pose) and sit on that. If you still feel uncomfortable try increasing the cushioning under your sit bones, by adding a further cushion or block.
If you are not comfortable sitting on the floor, you can sit on a straight backed chair, one that you do not sink into, with your feet resting on the floor.
However you are seated, root the sit bones into the floor (or chair) and lengthen the spine with the top of the head reaching towards the sky. Widen the shoulders with the shoulder blades reaching down towards the lower back. Draw the naval in and up, this helps to reduce the curve in the lower back. Allow the chin to drop gently towards the chest.
You are now ready to begin your pranayama practice. Did I forget to mention, it’s a good idea to visit the ladies or little boys room before preparation begins!
Peace and love,