Pranayama/Yogic Breathing

Notes from our Pranayama Event at West Lawn

Pranayama is a wonderful way to relax and has medically proven positive effects on many health conditions including anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure and diabetes.


Always start with asana (yoga poses) before pranayama to relax the body.
If you only have a little time, focus on asana to loosen chest and back muscles. For example:

  • Forward bend
  • Twist
  • Backbend
  • Paying attention to the breath is the most important part of pranayama. If you are paying attention to your breath, you are doing it right.
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. If a thought enters your mind, let it pass right through and return your focus to your breath.
  • Check your posture. You can practice pranayama in any comfortable position, but do try to keep your spine straight: Ears in line with shoulders, shoulders in line with hips.
  • Start by taking a breath in as you roll your shoulders up and exhale as you move the shoulder blades back and down to align your spine. If you are pregnant do not lie flat on your back, prop up your head and upper back with pillows.
  • Retention (holding your breath) is a part of some pranayamas. It helps to quiet the body and focus the mind. If you are pregnant, if you have any lung diseases or problems with fainting/vertigo, or if holding your breath makes you anxious, do not retain your breath.
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Belly breathing: Lying on your back with knees bent, put 1 hand on your chest and 1 hand on your belly. Notice your breath without trying to control it. Once you feel more relaxed, allow your belly to blow up like a balloon as you inhale and pull your navel toward your spine as you exhale. You may use pillows under your knees if you like.
  • Sama Vritti (equal breathing): In any position, count to 3 as you inhale and count to 3 as you exhale. You may increase the length of breath as desired.
  • Bhramari (buzzing bee): Plug your ears with your finger tips and close your eyes. Inhale and hum as you slowly exhale. Feel the vibration in your body. Good for inward focus prior to meditation.
  • 2 to 1 breathing: Inhale to any comfortable count (3, 4, 5) and exhale to twice that count. For example: If you inhale to the count of 3, exhale to the count of 6. Pause for a second between the inhale and the exhale. Remember to pull your navel to your spine as you exhale.
  • Box breathing:
  • 1) Inhale to the count 4. 2) Retain the breath to the count of 4.
  • 3) Exhale to the count of 4. 4) Retain the breath to the count of 4.
  • Repeat…