The mind is the king of the senses, but the breath is the king of the mind…
During this unprecedented time of quarantines, social distancing, and unemployment due to COVID-19, many things around us and within us have changed. New habits and ways of thinking have taken up much of our waking days. These times have encouraged us to make significant shifts in how we lead our lives and how we think of our futures.
You may have taken inventory of your personal belongings; deciding if the items you possess provide a purpose in your life or bring you joy. You may have taken the opportunity to do some spring cleaning; removing the clutter in your household. Making space in your natural surroundings can be very healing.
You have more physical space to move around, you no longer feel crowded in your own home. It also creates a sense of calm and safety when you have a household that is free from clutter. This can be the same for your internal system: your body and mind.
The type of work involved with internal cleansing is certainly much different from clearing unwanted items from your home, but the result is ultimately the same. The goal is to have mental clarity; to feel less burdened from emotional stress. This process may be considered a challenge since you are not literally lifting a heavy weight from your shoulders to dispose. You are dealing instead with energy work. The heaviness you feel in your shoulders or gut is an energetic pressure, so it takes a different set of tactics to lift that weight.
1. Physical Exercise
Physical exercise can be one of the strategies for releasing energetic heaviness in the body. The simple act of moving your body can loosen up some tightness that stores away in your body. Going for a walk or a nice jog in your neighborhood can be quite satisfying. Dancing to some music, doing Qi Gong in the park are ways to shift energy in the body. Yoga, too, is a reliable resource for tuning into the physical and emotional body to relieve them from barriers.
2. Pranayama: Yoga Breathing
Pranayama, a form of yoga, can also be considered a physical exercise. The movement is less about the body, but primarily about the breath. To understand this discipline, one can break down this Sanskrit word into two parts: Prana means "the life force" or "life energy"."Yama" is the action that we give the breath. There are hundreds of breathing exercises and all have specific intentions when practiced. If you're wanting to cool down in a hot climate, there are pranayama practices devoted to that outcome. If you're having trouble sleeping or just seeking some much needed mental relaxation, there are breathing exercises you can perform.
Pranayama is an ancient practice, but first mentioned around 1500 BC. Yoga at the time did not involve physical a postures like we know it today. Instead, the Indian Vedic priests pursued the path of enlightenment through meditative practices and pranayama.
Since the latter part of the word refers to the action of the breath, the early practitioners believed that this breath control was necessary to help cure physical diseases and encourage mental balance. Such ailments and imbalances were seen as impurities and deficiencies in the body's natural energy flow: prana.
One way to describe the energy flow in the body is to compare it to water running through a garden hose. When the hose is free from any kinks, the water can flow steadily and efficiently. The moment the hose is twisted, that water flow either stops or only trickles out the end. This is similar to the pranic flow in our bodies. When there is a blockage of energetic flow to a certain part of the body, the function and health of that region is compromised. Pranayama works alongside the yoga poses (asana). It helps to re-open those blocked passages. In essence, the life force can fully embody the whole physical system for a balance in health.
3. Pranayama for Cleansing
As mentioned, there are many specific pranayama practices, but some dedicated to energetic cleansing of the body. Stress, migraines, compromised immune systems, lower back pain may be the result, in some yogic beliefs, of inefficient pranic flow, or a twisted garden hose. In order to release these ailments to put the body on the holistic path of healing, a person needs to practice yoga, in particular pranayama.
3.1.Nadhi Sodhana: Alternative Nostril Breathing
"Kriya," a Sanskrit word meaning "completed action" refers to the richness of a pranayama cleansing practice. Not only are there breath control techniques, but they often coincide with hand gestures or physical poses to complete the action. Nadhi Sodhana (nah-dee sho-doh-nah) is a well-known pranayama practice that is said to purify your blood, calm your mind, and reduce mental tension. The kriya involves a sitting posture, breath work, and a hand gesture.
As with most pranayama exercises, it is best to perform this exercise in a comfortable upright seated posture. Raise your right palm so that it is turned toward your face. Block your right nostril with your thumb and take a full breath in through your opened left nostril. Be sure to also fill you belly in addition to your chest. Once full, block your left nostril using the ring finger of the same hand. Hold your breath for two to four seconds while holding your breath. Open your right nostril by releasing your thumb and exhale out the right side until empty. Now, breathe in deeply through your right nostril. Block the passage with your thumb and hold your breath for two to four seconds. Release the air through your left nostril by unblocking the passage. This is considered one full round of Alternative Nostril Breathing. Continue this exercise for at least five more rounds.
This is a very balancing breath that has a calming and soothing effect. When you're feeling anxious, tired, nervous, or agitated, this is a resourceful practice to try.
3.2. Kapalabhati Pranayama: Skull Shining Breath
Start this cleansing exercise in an upright seated position. Place your hands on your knees with your palms facing outward. Close your eyes to tune into your breath and to create a sense of presence and awareness.
With your eyes closed, take a long full inhale through your nose to fill up your lungs and belly. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to expand. On your exhale, you will breathe out sharply through your nose and quickly draw your navel in toward your spine. You will automatically draw in your next breath. Actively expand your belly again as you inhale. As before, exhale quickly with the abdominal contraction. Continue this several times until you're able to find a fluid breathing rhythm. As you're able, perform 15 to 20 rounds of this breath. At the end, sit in relaxation and notice your newly relaxed state of mind and body.
This can be a challenging breathingexercise; it takes some good practice to achieve a level of competence. To help, imagine the mechanism of a bellows used to stoke a fire. While pulling the two handles apart, it expands the flexible chamber to allow air to draw inward. Squeezing the apparatus forces the air out. Sometimes called "Bellows Breath," you are performing a similar action in Kapalabhati (kah-pah-lah-bah-tee) Pranayama. Be cautious because this style of breathing may cause dizziness or raise your heart rate. If you're new to this style of breathing, start slowly, and remain very aware of how this style of pranayama makes you feel. Manage the pace of your breath so you have a success with this exercise.
It is said that this breathing exercise clears waste and toxins from your body. It purifies the oxygen and blood that flows through your system. It can re-energize you if you're feeling lethargic. It creates a sense of balance and feeling clutter-free when this is incorporated into a daily regimen.
There are other popular styles of pranayama for cleansing the body, but these are just a couple to begin your journey. Whenever you're feeling full from stress and fatigue and need to re-balance your energetic system, yogic breathing is essential to the healing process. Use pranayama to assist the cleansing of those invasive disturbances within you.
If you desire a comfortable Pranayama session, try Maji Sports Meditation Zafus & Bolsters that come in various shapes to support your body during such long sessions of cleansing self. These bolsters offer breathability & absorbency and are available in trendy prints & colours. They are homemade with the best raw and unbleached cotton available on earth, densely packed to ensure they don’t collapse or lose shape.
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