The Power of Pranayama

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May 24, 2012

I love it when a student tells me that they took something they learned in one of my yoga classes off the mat and into their world. I think that, for any teacher, this just may be one of the most gratifying elements – to know that you have passed on a valuable exercise or lesson that has helped a student grow.

I always start out my classes with breath meditation or a pranayama breathing exercise. For me it is the best way to quiet the mind, get in touch with the body and breath, and prepare for practice. One of the breathing exercises I teach and also practice on a daily basis is bhramari. The word comes from the Sanskrit name bhramar, which translates to “humming black bee.” One of the reasons I love bhramari breathing is that its list of super-power benefits includes:

calming the mind

reducing stress

improving concentration

easing tensions, anger, and anxiety

aiding in sleep disorders and insomnia

lowering blood pressure

That, my yogi friends, is one powerful pranayama!

One of my students has what I would imagine is one of the most stressful jobs around: an emergency room doctor. She came up to me after class a week ago and told me that she was experiencing a particularly stressful evening in the ER, filled with lots of traumas and a frazzled staff. She called her team together in a huddle and proceeded to teach them the bhramari breathing exercise she learned in class. She explained that, after they did the exercise and for the remainder of the evening, a renewed sense of calm was evident, and the good feelings remained as her co-workers would walk by her, smile, and then give her a quick “buzz.”

The power of pranayama can be applied off the mat, in the car, in the office, and even in a crazed ER room.

Want to get in on the buzz! Here’s how to do brahmari breathing:

1. Sit in easy sit pose or any comfortable seated position.

2. Firmly plug the ears by inserting both thumb tips into your ear holes with a little pressure.

3. Take your hands and cup them gently over your eyes, blocking out light and sight.

4. Fill the air in your lungs to the brim with a deep inhale, hold the breath for one count, and then exhale slowly through both nostrils, making a humming sound like a bee.

5. Keep the sound going as long as you can keep the exhale. The louder the better!

6. Repeat the bumble bee breath a total of five times.

7. After completing the fifth round, bring the hands to the knees with palms up, keep your eyes closed, and feel the vibrations of the bhramari breathing throughout the head and the body. Notice the calming effects of the breath and the calm, relaxed state that has been created. Let the yumminess of the bhramari breath just soak over you.

8. Spend a few more moments in silent meditation. Feel that you are at peace. You can focus your awareness on your third eye at the center of the forehead, the sides of the eyes, and can feel the warmness of the bhramari breath until the echo or vibrations fade away.

9. Gently open your eyes and take a few moments to observe your surroundings with full awareness and bliss.

 

This practice can be done at the start or end of your day, before a yoga practice, or anytime you need to clear your mind.

So much of what we learn on the yoga mat can be applied in our everyday lives: letting go of the ego and judgment, showing love for ourselves and our bodies, remaining present, and taking the time to pause, breathe, buzz, and enjoy the moment.

Bumble Bee Image: Andrej Sevelin

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Alissa May 24, 2012 at 8:29 AM

I can only imagine the stress of an ER doctor…I know our ER is hopping at most times.

I can say that I have used breathing in my tennis matches. So, while I’m waiting for the serve, I take a couple of breaths. I know I forget to breathe during the point so it totally helps calm me down. Especially since now it’s USTA season and points count toward your ranking – it’s easy to get stressed!

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Meredith LeBlanc ૐ May 24, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Awesome! Love this Lovely Maria!
♥♥♥

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Cynthia May 24, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Thanks for teaching me this Maria. It’s been a real help & I love the “after buzz”.

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Leslie May 31, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Ah breathing. I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite, but it’s got to be the best limb (of the 8 limbs of yoga)! And pranayama can truely be done anywhere – I now love traffic jams!!!

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Maria @dailydownwarddog June 1, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Leslie I couldn’t agree more, pranayama is one of my favorites too! I’ve used it effectively in the dentist chair, during a stressful medical procedure, and numerous other times to chill me out! Pranayama ROCKS!

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Esther June 2, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Maria-
Thank you for A lovely moment in an overwhelming day…I’m on my way to buzz…thank you for the reminder that I have a choice when it comes to much of my daily stress. I can painfully endure and affect my health and well being or I can learn new strategies to put stress in it’s rightful place.
You are a blessing am I look forward to a yoga session on the beach with you!
Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Esther

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