Pranayama Practice for Gratitude
Our pranayama practice for gratitude is the perfect breathwork practice to help you tap into gratitude. We've been sharing lots of gratitude-themed sequences for yoga this month, and we thought. it was time to release a sequence you could use if you want to teach a pranayama practice for gratitude.
The practice only has 3 breathworks. We'll give you recommended timings for each of the breathwork practices so you can make the most of this pranayama practice for gratitude.
Pranayama Practice for Gratitude
Here are the breathwork practices in our pranayama practice for gratitude:
Deep Belly Breathing - 10 Minutes (great opportunity to add a guided meditation or visualization)
Nadi Shodhana - 15 Minutes
Relaxation With Guided Breathwork - 15 Minutes
Savasana (Without Guided Breathwork) - 15 Minutes
How to Do Pranayama Practices for Gratitude
Deep Belly Breathing
Deep belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing, involves fully engaging the diaphragm, a primary muscle of respiration located below the lung bases. When you breathe diaphragmatically, the diaphragm moves downward, causing the abdomen to expand, rather than the chest. This method of breathing is deeper and more efficient than chest breathing.
Here's a step-by-step guide to practicing deep belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing:
Find a Comfortable Position: Begin by sitting in a comfortable position with a straight back, or lying down on your back with your knees slightly bent and feet flat on the ground. If lying down, you can place a pillow under your head and knees for support.
Place Your Hands: Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. This will allow you to feel the movement and ensure you're breathing correctly.
Close Your Eyes (Optional): Some people find it easier to focus on their breath with their eyes closed, but it's entirely up to you.
Exhale Completely: Before you begin, exhale fully through your mouth to empty your lungs.
Inhale through the Nose: Slowly and deeply inhale through your nose. As you breathe in, allow your abdomen to rise or expand outwards (pushing your hand out). Your chest should remain relatively still.
Pause: At the end of the inhalation, take a brief pause.
Exhale through the Mouth: Slowly exhale through pursed lips or a slightly open mouth, allowing the abdomen to fall or contract inward. Again, your chest should remain relatively still.
Repeat: Continue this pattern, deeply inhaling into the abdomen and exhaling fully, for several breath cycles. With each breath, try to increase the depth and length of your inhalations and exhalations.
Focus on the Breath: As you breathe, focus on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body, the rise and fall of your abdomen, and the feeling of relaxation that comes with each exhale.
Duration: Start with a minute or two and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice. Over time, aim for about 5-10 minutes or longer if desired.
Finish: To finish the practice, sit or lie quietly for a minute with normal breathing. Notice the calmness and relaxation throughout your body.
- If you find it challenging at first, don't be discouraged. With practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become more natural.
- Over time, try to make the exhale longer than the inhale, which can enhance the relaxing effects.
- You can incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into meditation practices, yoga sessions, or use it as a standalone relaxation technique.
Benefits: Diaphragmatic breathing is a foundational pranayama technique in yoga. It helps to calm the nervous system, reduce stress and anxiety, improve lung function, enhance oxygen exchange, and establish a centered and focused mind. Regular practice can be a valuable tool for mental and physical well-being.
Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, is a pranayama (breath control) technique used in yoga. The name translates as "Nadi" meaning "channel" or "flow" and "Shodhana" meaning "purification." Thus, the practice is primarily aimed at purifying the energy channels of the body, balancing the flow of prana (life force), and harmonizing the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana:
- Calms the mind and reduces anxiety.
- Enhances focus and mental clarity.
- Balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
- Helps purify the energy channels in the body.
- Can improve respiratory function and increase lung capacity.
- Encourages a sense of peace and balance.
How to Practice Nadi Shodhana:
Comfortable Position: Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position with a straight spine. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, use a chair.
Hand Position (Vishnu Mudra): Use your right hand for controlling the nostrils. Fold your index and middle fingers into the palm. You'll use your thumb to close off your right nostril and your ring and little fingers to close off your left nostril.
Beginning Breath: Take a deep, full breath in and out through both nostrils to prepare.
Close Right Nostril: Using your right thumb, close off your right nostril.
Inhale Left: Slowly inhale through your left nostril.
Close Left Nostril: At the peak of your inhale, use your ring and little fingers to close off your left nostril.
Exhale Right: Release your right nostril and exhale fully through it.
Inhale Right: Still keeping the left nostril closed, inhale deeply through your right nostril.
Close Right Nostril: Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
Exhale Left: Release your left nostril and exhale fully through it.
Continue: This completes one cycle. Continue this pattern for several cycles. Typically, you might start with 5 to 10 cycles and increase with practice.
Completion: After you finish, take a few normal breaths through both nostrils. Notice the calmness and balance in your mind and body.
- Keep your breath smooth and even. If you find yourself gasping or out of breath, stop and return to normal breathing.
- Try to keep the length of your inhales and exhales consistent, perhaps counting to four for each inhalation and each exhalation. As you become more advanced, you can experiment with extending the exhale or incorporating breath retention (known as "kumbhaka").
- Practicing Nadi Shodhana before meditation can help quiet the mind and set the stage for deeper introspection.
Like all pranayama practices, it's essential to approach Nadi Shodhana with patience and without forcing the breath. Over time, with regular practice, you may find increased clarity, calmness, and balance both in your mind and in your physical body.
Relaxation With Guided Breathwork
Guided breathwork is a powerful tool to facilitate relaxation, and teaching it requires clarity, empathy, and a calm presence. Here's a step-by-step guide to teaching relaxation through guided breathwork:
Create a Calm Environment:
- Choose a quiet space free from distractions.
- Use soft lighting, possibly with candles or soft natural light.
- If appropriate, play gentle background music or nature sounds at a low volume.
Have Participants Find a Comfortable Position:
- They can either sit in a chair with feet flat on the ground, sit on the floor with a cushion, or lie down with a pillow under the head and knees.
- Encourage them to adjust their position until they feel completely comfortable.
Begin with a Gentle Introduction:
- Start by explaining the purpose of the session: "We're going to use guided breathwork to help calm the mind and relax the body."
- Briefly describe what you'll be guiding them through so they know what to expect.
- Ask participants to gently close their eyes.
- Guide them to mentally scan their bodies from head to toe, releasing any tension they notice.
- You might say, "Imagine a warm, relaxing energy flowing from the top of your head, down through your face, neck, shoulders..." and so on.
Introduce the Breath:
- Direct their attention to their natural breathing without trying to change it.
- Say, "Notice how the breath feels as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and belly."
- Begin with deep diaphragmatic breathing. Instruct them to "Breathe deeply into the belly, feel it rise, then breathe out and feel it fall."
- After a few cycles, you can introduce counting, such as "Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four."
- Continue with this pattern, and as they become more relaxed, you can extend the exhale: "Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for a count of six."
- As participants get deeper into relaxation, you can introduce visualization. For example, "Imagine you're by the ocean, and with every inhale, you're drawing in the fresh, salty air. With every exhale, you're releasing any tension or worries into the waves."
- Direct their attention to different parts of the body in sync with their breath. "As you inhale, imagine breathing into your feet, feeling them relax. As you exhale, let go of any tension."
Conclude the Session:
- Gradually reduce the guided instructions, letting participants breathe naturally.
- After a few minutes, gently guide them back to awareness by saying something like, "Start to notice the sounds around you. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes."
- Finally, instruct them to slowly open their eyes when they're ready.
Feedback and Sharing:
- Once the session is done, give participants an opportunity to share their experiences, if they wish.
- Answer any questions and provide tips for practicing breathwork at home.
- Like any skill, the benefits of guided breathwork grow with consistent practice. Encourage participants to integrate these techniques into their daily lives, even if just for a few minutes.
Teaching relaxation through guided breathwork requires both knowledge and intuition. It's essential to be responsive to the needs of the group or individual and to be flexible in your guidance. With practice, you'll develop a feel for what works best in different situations.