When I am tired and I need a boost of energy, I practice pranayama, or the breathwork of yoga. Pranayama is also beneficial if you are stressed out, as it will help calm you down.
The study of yoga teaches us that by controlling the breath, we control the mind. The mind becomes calm and clear, and we can better focus our energy to complete tasks.
Once such practice of pranayama that I will discuss today is called kapalabhati breathing, or fire-breathing. Kapalabhati is also called the skull-shining breath, because it is known to bring a sense of brightness to the brain. It is also good for the digestive system, so it is cleansing and detoxifying breath.
Kapalabhati focuses on a very forceful exhale. The inhale happens automatically. It can be practiced with the mouth open, it can be practiced with the mouth closed (have a tissue handy if you have mild stuffiness).
To practice Kapalabhati, follow these steps:
- Sit in a comfortable upright position. You may use a chair.
- Take a few long, slow calming breaths.
- Inhale normally, then either with an open mouth or a closed mouth, exhale forcefully 10-30 times in a row, noticing that the inhale happens automatically. If you become too light-headed, stop and return to normal breathing for a moment. Resume kapalabhati when you are no longer light-headed.
- On your last exhale, breathe normally for a minute or two, and then practice another round.
- Repeat kapalabhati breath at least 3 rounds.
Tips to Kapalabhati:
- Practice on an empty stomach, or at least two hours after a meal.
- Do not practice if you think you might be pregnant, or if you are pregnant, if you are severely sick, if you have cardiac problems, or if you have a hernia. If you have unmedicated high blood pressure, avoid practice as well.
Benefits to Kapalabhati:
- Provides abdominal exercise to strengthen the core, and a cardiac exercise to strengthen the heart.
- Helps clear the lungs.
- Improves your mood.
- Moves metabolic waste out of the cells through the lungs.
- Increases peristalsis, or the contractions of the digestive track to improve elimination.
Happiness is a Consequence of Personal Effort
Pranayama is an excellent way to improve your state of mind whenever you need it. I encourage you to tap into your breath if you are tired, upset, stressed out or angry.
Remember that yoga is about the expansion of conscious awareness of ourselves. One way to tune the attention inward is to focus on your breathing, which will allow you to reflect on your mood. From controlling the breath, you can then improve your mood.
Happiness is a choice, and one trick that will help you is pranayama. It does not hurt to try.