There is a belief that to meditate, one sits for long periods of time and empties their mind. That is certainly one style of meditation, but is considered an advanced style and takes years of practice. A simpler approach to meditation is to focus on your breath. It is a challenge as a beginner to this practice to empty your mind. Instead, pay attention to your breathing to experience a sense of mental clarity.
3.1 Pranayama: How to Breathe
The practice of breathing in yoga is called Pranayama. It is the foundation of any meditation practice. They are breathing exercises that have many remedies: to reduce the effects of a fever, to increase oxygen flow, to rejuvenate a tired body, to calm a racing heart, and more. In these stressful times, you can use Pranayama and meditation to ease the weary mind and embrace a healing quiet from within. To understand the word Pranayama, you can break it down into two parts: "prana" meaning "life force" and "yama" meaning the action given to the breath. Life force or life energy is represented through the breathing effort. Breathing slowly or quickly may be an action you attribute to your breath. Each has its own intention. Overall, Pranayama is to energetically cleanse the body of any obstacles and barriers that restricts one from experiencing good health and eventual enlightenment.
3.2 Ujjayi Pranayama: "Victorious Breath"
Ujjayi (oo-JAH-yee) Pranayama means "Victorious Breath." Not only is the intention to bring new life and energy to your mind and body, but it calms you at the same time. Sit comfortably in a high back chair, on the side of your bed, or even on a cushion on the floor. It is important that you find a quiet location in your home to avoid any outside distractions.
Take a full inhale through your nose like you're smelling a fragrant rose, then exhale normally, Feel the air move through your nostrils. (this is not quite Ujjayi Breathing, but these are steps toward understanding the breathing exercise.) Next, open your mouth and breathe in deeply through your mouth like you're gasping for breath in slow motion. You may even feel a coolness hit the back of your through as you inhale. Exhale with your mouth open as if you're fogging a mirror. Here, you may feel a warmth leave your mouth. Do this several times and notice how the muscles of your throat constrict and relax as you breathe (You are getting closer to Ujjayi). Continue to notice these sensations in your throat.
Now, close your mouth, but continue to breathe in deeply as if your mouth was open. Air will move through your nostrils, but the inhale-action will be generated with your throat muscles. Likewise, breathe out while keeping your mouth closed. You may produce a sound that resembles an ocean wave rolling onto the shore. This is Ujjayi Pranayama. Continue breathing in and out in this fashion. Over time and with much practice, you will be able to take very slow deep breaths in and controlled breaths out. This will result in a lowered heart rate and blood pressure. It is a soothing style of breath that helps to eliminate stress and anxiety.
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