Pranayama Yoga Techniques: Poses for Stress Reduction
When life is busy (and it usually is), you may feel like you never have time to stop and take a few deep breaths. When you feel like you’re barely holding it together as it is, how can you just drop what you’re doing? But, no matter how hectic your days are, it’s important to pause for a few minutes of self-care. Putting everything on pause to achieve a more meditative state of mind can change your whole day for the better. If you’re wondering how you can do that, check out my quick primer on pranayama yoga techniques.
- The Benefits of Pranayama Yoga Techniques
- Seated Poses for Breathing: Sukhasana and More
- Prone Poses: Bhujangasana, Salama Bhujangasana, and Salabhasana
- What Is Pranayama?
The Benefits of Pranayama Yoga Techniques
Yoga is great for you in so many ways. There’s a reason it’s been around for thousands of years (and not going anywhere in the near future). It can help you to increase your flexibility and endurance and tone your muscles. It can also help you combat diabetes and hypertension and keep your heart healthier.
Beyond its many benefits for your physical health, it’s among the most powerful stress reduction techniques available to us. Practicing pranayama yoga techniques on a regular basis can help you to stave off anxiety and depression and achieve a more balanced mental state. And the deep breathing that is central to the practice plays no small part in that. Whether it’s one of the gentler forms, like vinyasa flow, or the more challenging bikram yoga, the focus is on inhalation and exhalation. It can help you to slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, and feel more relaxed.
This all sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s certainly enough to make you want to sign up for a class at a local yoga studio. That, of course, may not be possible until social distancing is over. You can’t breathe like a yogi if you’re wearing a mask!
Thankfully, one of the best things about yoga is that you can practice it anywhere, even right in your home. If this is your first time, it’s best to begin with some of the easier, more restful poses before moving on to the trickier ones. Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and where you can comfortably stretch out on a yoga mat. (This B Yoga Mat is a great option, especially if you’re on the taller side.) Make sure you’re wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that will move with you.
Seated Poses for Breathing: Sukhasana and More
You don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel to enjoy the benefits of those deep pranayama yoga technique breaths. In fact, if you’re a beginner, you’ll find it easier to focus on your breathing if you start slowly. Try some of these gentle seated poses for relaxation and meditation.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
In sukhasana (easy pose), you sit on the floor with your legs crossed—something you’ve likely done thousands of times. You can sit with your back against the wall for support if it helps you to maintain a lengthened spine. If you sit hunched over a desk most days, this is a nice way to find a better, healthier alignment.
Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)
Agnistambhasana (fire log pose) is similar to easy pose, except that one leg is stacked on top of the other. Now breathe into that hip stretch! Make sure to alternate top and bottom legs so that you stretch both hips.
Virasana (Hero Pose)
Next, you can try virasana (hero pose) to continue stretching your legs. Sit in a kneeling position with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your knees touching. Spread your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the tops of your feet flat against the floor. Breathe deeply and sink to a seated position between your feet. Be mindful of what your shoulders and spine are doing. Don’t give in to the temptation to release your core muscles and slouch over. And remember to breathe!
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
You’ll recognize padmasana (lotus pose) as an iconic yoga pose. Here, your legs are crossed again, with both feet resting on the opposing thighs. This gives you a deeper stretch than some of the other seated poses, which means it’s slightly more advanced. If it hurts, don’t pursue it until you’ve gained some flexibility from the earlier poses.
Prone Poses: Bhujangasana, Salama Bhujangasana, and Salabhasana
Seated poses are excellent for stretching your legs and improving your posture. You can also try some of these easy prone poses (lying flat, chest down) for opening the chest. Feeling the expansion in your shoulders and rib cage will encourage deeper breathing.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose)
- Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
In bhujangasana (cobra pose), you’ll begin in a prone position and use your arms to lift your chest off the floor. In addition to stretching your pecs, this can help to prepare you for a full backbend (much later on, of course!).
Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose)
Salamba bhujangasana (sphinx pose) is a similar pose, but in this one, you rest your weight on your forearms. If you don’t feel quite ready for cobra pose, this can be a slightly gentler option. Remember, you can’t focus on your breathing if you’re straining, so take it easy.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
In salabhasana (locust pose), you’ll keep your arms by your side as you stretch through your chest muscles. This one can be a little more challenging because you’re not using your arms to prop yourself up. You can use a rolled-up blanket to support your torso if needed.
What Is Pranayama?
Pranayama is the Sanskrit term for “breath control,” and it’s the special and very intentional breathing technique yogis use when they’re practicing. It helps with relaxation and encourages more blood flow and oxygen to the brain. But it’s also something you can do even when you’re not moving through poses, as it’s useful on its own. Check out this video on the basics of pranayama breathing techniques for yoga:
As you can see, harnessing the power of pranayama will help you to make your yoga practice more beneficial. And you can do the breathing exercises themselves pretty much anywhere and at any time. You might try them while you’re sitting in traffic or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. Again, it doesn’t matter if you do them “perfectly,” as there’s really no such thing as “perfect” here. If you’re tuning in to the sensation of each inhalation and exhalation and moving into a more mindful state, you’re doing it exactly right. So breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy the wonderful benefits of yoga on a daily basis.
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