Take a deep breath…
Pranayama (breathing) Practices for Grounding
With everything that has happened (and is still happening) this year, it’s more important now than ever to practise self-care in order to help keep ourselves grounded during this uncertain time. We all have different things that help us to feel grounded, maybe a phone call with a friend, a song or podcast, a comforting book, a cup of tea…the list goes on. However, one thing we all have in common is the breath: something that is often underestimated in regards to how powerful it can be in changing how we feel. Psychologists have found that breathing practice is effective in alleviating stress, anxiety and depression, whilst physiological evidence had indicated that even a single breath work session can significantly reduce blood pressure.
Our breath, or ‘prana’ (literally meaning ‘life force’ in Yogic terms) is the only thing that remains constant throughout our entire lives; it’s the first thing we do when we are born, and the last thing we do when we die. It therefore makes sense that we take time out from our busy schedules to notice it once in a while.
5 Pranayama (breathing) Practices for Grounding:
1. Counting the breath
This is great to help you focus during meditation.
Count each inhale/exhale down from 10 to 0. Once you reach 0 start back again at 10. If your mind gets distracted (which it inevitably will), start back at 10 and continue the count down.
3. Sama Vrtti (Equal breathing/Square breathing)
Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4. Repeat this for as many rounds as you wish. Sometimes it helps to visualise moving along the edges of a square as you breathe.
2. Extended Exhales
When your body is in a relaxed state, your exhalation is naturally longer than the inhalation. The aim of this exercise is to ease our body and mind into relaxation. Focus on making the exhalation longer than the inhalation, for example by breathing in for a count of 5, breathing out for a count of 7.
4.Viloma 1 & 2 (Three part breath)
Viloma I (cooling breath)
Inhale deeply and hold the breath at its peak. Slowly release the breath, splitting it into 3 parts. Exhale 1/3 (pause), exhale 2/3 (pause) then slowly release the last 1/3 and empty the breath all the way out. Slowly inhale, and repeat this process again.
Viloma II (heating breath)
Inhale fully, then release the breath all the way out and hold for a moment at the bottom of your exhale. Then, slowly inhale 1/3 (pause), inhale another 1/3 (pause) and finally inhale the last 1/3. Pause and hold at the peak for a moment, before exhaling all the breath out. Repeat this process agin.
Use your imagination to help focus on the breath. For example, picturing waves moving up and down a shoreline or a feather rising and falling. A lovely grounding visualisation; Imagine the breath travelling from the earth, through the sit bones and up the spine, and then back down again, rooting you into the ground and helping you to feel stable and secure.
If you find practising breath-work on your own is really challenging to begin with, there are so many great resources out there you can use…Youtube videos, apps such as Insight Timer or online studio subscriptions to breath-work specialists like Breathe With James or Wim Hof.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
by Saskia Morris