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Breath of Joy Pranayama Practice

beginners meditation beginners yoga breath practice pranayama Sep 06, 2022

 Breath of Joy Pranayama Practice

There is so much important work happening for our bodies when we do yoga. Practicing the actual yoga postures is one thing, but breathing consciously while we do them is arguably even more crucial. Perhaps you have heard the Sanskrit term “pranayama” (pronounced pra-na-ya-ma). Pranayama practice is the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. Prana in Sanskrit means “vital life force” and yama means “to gain control.”

This week I want to teach you one of my favorite pranayama practices called Breath of Joy. This is an excellent practice to do in the morning to get your body moving, or a great practice for mid-day when the afternoon slump hits. Rather than reaching for sugar or caffeine as a pick-me up, try 5-9 rounds of Breath of Joy pranayama practice. This practice helps to sweep away sluggishness and infuses the mind with energy and clarity.

Practicing pranayama is like medicine. It fuels our body with oxygen and vital life force, but there are also contraindications for breath practices. Breath of joy awakens the entire system, increases oxygen levels in the bloodstream, and temporarily stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, it circulates more life force energy, and gently stokes our internal energetic fires. Breath of Joy should not be practiced if you have high blood pressure, or if you suffer from any kind of head or eye injury, like migraines or glaucoma. If you start to feel lighted, stop for a minute and breathe normally.

Breath of Joy breaks the inhale into three short breaths with a big, open mouth sigh. It also includes arm movements to get the body moving. You can watch the video for a demonstration, but here are the steps for practicing Breath of Joy pranayama. See the accompanying video additionally.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent. 
  2. Inhale one-third of your lung capacity and swing your arms up in front of your body, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level, with palms facing the ceiling. 
  3. Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level. 
  4. Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms parallel and over your head, palms facing each other. 
  5. Open your mouth and exhale completely with an audible ha, bending the knees more deeply as you sink into a standing squat and swing your arms down and back behind you like a diver.

Try doing Breath of Joy practice between 5-9 times. After you complete the final round, close your eyes and be still. Don’t worry if you feel a little dizzy, that might happen with the up and down movements. Continue to be still until the dizziness passes. Notice how the body and mind feels after doing this breath practice.

Ask yourself: What has shifted? Take a moment to notice the difference in your energy. You don’t have to call it anything or name, but do take the time to be with yourself after a powerful practice such as this. Intentional breathing practices are powerful and can shift our perspective in the moment. Especially, when you add the physicality of this breath through the arm movements and the forward bending. This is a full body experience.

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