Different Styles of Breathing -
Some breathing techniques better known for monitoring overall spinal health are:
kapalbhati / shining skull (for arthritis),
ujjayi / victorious (for asthma),
bhastrika / bellows (for constipation),
shitali / horizontal cooling (for diabetes),
brahmari / bumble bee (for hypertension),
shitkari / vertical cooling (for lumbago),
nadi shuddhi/ nerve cleansing (for piles),
shanmukhi / seashell (for sciatica).
Techniques for some common breathing exercises are (in alphabetical order) –
Anuloma-Viloma / alternate nostril (or nadi shuddhi/ nerve cleansing) - Thumb on right
nostril, ring finger on left. Inhale left, hold, exhale right; reverse. 1:2:1. Enhances lung
power, soothes nerves; relieves headache and insomnia.
Bhastrika / bellows - Sit on your heels, palms facing down, with forefinger/ index finger
touching. Inhale and exhale forcefully through nostrils/ lower abdomen for 30 strokes.
Vigorously exercises abdominal viscera and lungs.
Brahmari/ bumble bee - Fold first three fingers into the palm, and place the little fingers
over both ears with thumbs extended; inhale deeply, then exhale with humming sound
until all the air is used up; or keep exhaling for 1-2 minutes. Soothes nerves.
Chandra Bhedan/ moon nostril (pingala) - Thumb on right nostril, inhale/ exhale left;
repeat 5-10 times. Cools system, enhances focus/ memory/ sleep patterns.
Kapalbhathy/ shining skull - Sit on heels; exhale briskly through nostrils at 30 strokes a
minute. Increases bile, activates liver function, eliminates toxins, soothes and relaxes
skeletal system while refreshing all bodily systems.
Nadi Shuddhi/ nerve cleansing - Thumb on right nostril, fold in first two fingers, with ring
finger on left nostril. Inhale left, hold, exhale left; repeat on other side. Ratio 1:2:1.
Clears sinuses, builds lung power, relieves cough and cold.
Shanmukhi Mudra/ sealing gesture - Press thumb lightly over ears, index finger over
eyes, middle finger over nostril, ring finger over upper lip, little finger below lower lip.
Inhale deeply, hold, release 1:2:1. Refreshes nerves, lowers pressure.
Shitali/ cooling of tongue - Roll tongue into cylinder. Inhale noisily through center of
tube; close mouth, and exhale through nostrils. Repeat 5-10 times. Channels fresh
oxygen into sacrum area, relieves tension in joints, eases low back pain.
Shitkari/ cooling of teeth - Place tip of tongue against inside upper ridge. Inhale
through sides; release slowly. Repeat 5-10 times. Increases saliva formation, dispels
hunger, thirst, lethargy; activates thyroid, and refreshes inner organs.
Surya Bhedan/ sun nostril (pingala) - Thumb on left nostril, inhale/ exhale right nostril;
repeat 5-10 times. Increases gastric juices, aids digestion, clears sinuses.
Simhasana/ lions breath - This breathing technique is literally translated as lions posture.
Seated upright, with arms straight down, and legs folded back, it involves a forceful,
loud exhale with tongue hanging out/ eyes wide open, like a fierce lion.
Ujjayi / victorious - Practiced with or without interim retention. Inhale deeply from back
of throat, and release slowly in ratio of 1:2. Repeat 5-10 times. Enhances lung power,
aids thyroid function, strengthens pelvic sphincters, refreshes brain. Ujjayi breath may
be practiced with or without retention. (without breath retention/ purak-rechak/ inhale-
exhale ratio 1:2//with retention/ purak-kumbhak-rechak/ inhale-hold-exhale 1:1:2).
For day-to-day spinal health, it is suggested that we practice at least the following -
Anuloma-Viloma / alternate nostril, Nadi Shuddhi/ nerve cleansing, Ujjayi/ victorious.
Surya Bhedan / sun nostril, and Chandra Bhedan/ moon nostril, are right and left nostril
cleansing techniques that enhance left (logical) and right (artistic) brain functions.
Although still observed by some practitioners, little is known of Plavini and Murcha.
Finally, OM is a trisyllabic sound that is more an exhale technique than a chant - a deep
3-part exhale - first sound "a" emanates from the belly/ second syllable "u" resonates in
the lungs/ and third sound of "m" reverberates in the skull, at a ratio of 1:1:2.
Where The Mind Goes, Energy Flows.
Drishti or focus is converging of mental energy. Concentrating on regions that require
greatest effort helps us face our deepest fears; while deeper exhales help us ease into
postures gracefully, and eliminate toxins faster.
Where the mind goes, energy flows. When we focus internally on various points in the
body during posture practice, we channel fresh energy to that region. But when we
plant our external focus on a single point ahead of us, we attempt to improve our
balance by zoning out ancillary thoughts.Nevertheless, since each body is different,
focus points may vary by ability and need. It is therefore wise to direct our attention to
regions of the body that are primarily impacted in each ailment specific sequence.As a
general rule of thumb, try and send your focus to that region of the body which needs
your greatest attention. A basic guideline to focus points is offered in the posture
profiles tab on this site, and is indicated by a yellow star within each of the 48
stretches in this website. For example, focus on knee joints for arthritis (of the knees),
chest region for asthma, lower abdomen for constipation, upper abdominal region
for diabetes, eyebrow center for hypertension, lower back for lumbago, pelvic region
for piles (hemorrhoids), and back of upper thighs for sciatica.