In Sanskrit, the term Prana translates to ‘life force’. It is believed that every individual possesses the power to cultivate a vibrant life force and longevity with the diligent practice of breath consciousness. Pranayama is an ancient form of yogic stress reduction that harnesses the power of one’s own breathing patterns in order to modulate their body's response to external and internal tension. Instead of turning to unnatural remedies for stress relief, you already possess the power to combat stress; it begins with your breath. You may not be able to control the stresses that will inevitably materialize, but you can control how you respond to it when it does occur. Here are three breathing techniques that are particularly helpful in calming the nervous system, lowering blood pressure, quelling headaches, and relieving muscular tension that can be triggered by stress.
By simply elongating your exhalation, you drop into a state of surrender and relaxation. Try inhaling for a count of four and then exhale for a count of six. Do this a few times and then think of the word, “let” as you inhale for four, and “go” as you exhale for six. Do this several times and notice the shift that takes place in your energy field. You’re probably feeling much more relaxed than you did before the practice. This is just one simple example of how powerful your breath is for soothing and calming your body – as well as your mind.
Holding the breath after the inhale and again after the exhale adds to the sensation of relaxation. In yoga, this is called breath retention or suspension. You can experiment with breath retention by simply inhaling to a count of four, holding the inhale for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding the out breath for a count of four, and then repeating the process over and over again. This may seem difficult at first, but like anything, the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Breath of Fire:
It’s also interesting that by intentionally speeding up your breath, you can also relax the body and mind. Take the rapid breath of fire, for instance. This type of breathing pattern requires quick inhalations and exhalations through your nose. It’s a rather short and noisy breath, but it helps clear your mind and become more alert. This clearing of the mind is a surefire way to relax because as we all know very well, a cluttered mind can increase the feelings of stress