How to do Pranayama for Instant Calm

Feeling stressed or anxious? Let me teach you how to do pranayama. Its an easy and powerful way to quickly calm your mind and body, as well as give you an instant energy boost.

Many of us, especially those prone to anxiety, tend to breathe very high up in the chest. Stop and notice how you are breathing right now. Are you holding your shoulders up tensely and only breathing into the upper part of your lungs? There's a good chance that you are, and you're not alone.

Because breathing is an automatic process, we don't  notice it. But the more tense we feel, the more shallow our breathing becomes. And after a while, shallow breathing just becomes a habit.

Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is incredibly simple yet has fantastic benefits, both immediate and long term. Pranayama means "control of the breath" and there are several pranayama techniques. However I like the method I am about to teach you because it's simple, very effective and you can do it anywhere.

I first learned alternate nostril breathing in meditation classes many years ago. Before we get into the actual technique, let's have a look at the benefits:

Pranayama Benefits

how to do pranayama
  • Reduces your anxiety level by calming your mind. If your mind is in overdrive with
    worrying thoughts, a few minutes of pranayama will slow down your thinking and help
    you regain control of an overactive mind
  • Relaxes a tensed and stressed body. Pranayama techniques  encourage deeper, slower breathing. This has a very relaxing effect, releasing tension and inducing a more relaxed physical state
  • Calms down emotional stress. If you find yourself in an emotional state, some alternate nostril breathing will take the edge off of your distress. Regular practice of this technique will make your emotions more calm on a daily basis
  • Revitalises you when you are feeling flat. Pranayama improves the oxygen levels throughout your body and allows the energy, or prana, to flow freely and strong
  • Improves your concentration and clarity. This technique will oxygenate both sides of your brain, improving your brain function. So if you are beginning to feel dull at work or study, do a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing
  • Balances and improves brain function. As you may know, the left side of the brain is for logical thinking and the right side is for feeling and creativity. So by balancing both sides of the brain, you can improve its performance (and we could all do with a bit of that!)
  • Improves your ability to rest and relax. By reducing stress and anxiety, relaxing a tensed body and balancing the hemispheres of the brain, pranayama will also improve your sleep. And if you meditate, pranayama is a great way to slow yourself down before you get started
  • Promotes a greater connection between mind and body. Slower, deeper breathing brings you down from your head and helps you be in your whole body
  • Removes stale air from your lungs. Because shallow breathing is an ingrained habit,
    many of us carry around old, stale air in the bottom of our lungs because we never
    breathe that deeply
  • Improves sleep. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, try some alternate nostril breathing while lying in your bed, and feel the restlessness drift away

With a list of wonderful benefits like this, I'm sure you're keen to get started.

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How to do Pranayama - Step by Step

Before you begin, make sure you are sitting comfortably in whatever position is best for you.

1. Holding your right hand in front of your face, begin by using your thumb to close off your right nostril.

2. Inhale slowly and deeply (but gently) through your left nostril.

3. Pause for a second.

4. Now close off the left nostril with your ring finger while removing your thumb from your right nostril.

5. Exhale slowly through your right nostril.

6. Inhale slowly through your right nostril.

7. Pause for a second

8. Now close off the right nostril with your thumb again while removing your ring finger from your left nostril.

9. Exhale slowly and gently through your left nostril.

10. This completes one round of pranayama. Now begin at step 1 again by inhaling through your left nostril, and on you go.

When you first start using this breathing technique, begin with just one or two rounds and gradually build up to around ten rounds. Always sit quietly for a few moments when you have finished.

If you have blocked nostrils for any reason, do not force yourself to do this type of breathing exercise. If you have high blood pressure do not hold your breath. If you have any medical condition consult your medical professional before you begin. 

Well, learning how to do pranayama is as easy as that! There are other more advanced pranayama techniques, but for the purposes of this website, this is a terrific little technique that almost anybody can use. Try it today and begin to see the benefits!

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