In yOga (see sanskrit transliteration scheme), prANAyAma (control of life-force through breath) is an important and ancient conglomeration of techniques to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
In this article, I will discuss simple breathing and visualization techniques, I often use to heal myself of minor ailments like headaches and pains or when I am stressed from dealing with day-to-day issues. Learning and becoming comfortable with these techniques beforehand is better, so you can use them right away when you are in need.
CAUTION: This breathing technique or any other technique is not a substitute for proper medical care. This, when practiced correctly, may help you to gain strength to handle the pain, while you are waiting for medical help. But, get proper medical attention as soon as you can. Like any other exercise program, start slowly. Listen to your body and do not push it.
First I will give you the deep abdominal breathing procedure and then the breathing techniques for self-healing, which incorporate this deep abdominal breathing. Before you go on to the self-healing you should be reasonably comfortable with the deep abdominal breathing technique.
All the breathing techniques described here can be done in either “sitting up” or “lying down on back” positions.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
If you observe babies and very young children, you will notice that their abdomen expands and contracts deeply and rhythmically with breath. As we become adults, we start to exercise shallow breath and forget deep breathing. It is well known that whenever we are stressed our breath becomes shallow and vice versa. When we take deep long breaths, we calm our mind.
Deep Breathing in Lying Down Position with a Book on the Abdomen
If you are not used to deep breathing, it may initially be uncomfortable. You may want to start this lying down on your back with a book on diaphragm area of your abdomen, to get a feel for how the abdominal breathing works.
- Lie down on carpet or a mattress.
- Place a book on the abdomen, with top of the book over the diaphragm and the rest of the book extending down over the abdomen.
- Close your eyes.
- Perform khEcarI mudra (This is Optional until you become familiar with the breathing technique. See NOTE below)
- Inhale, through both nostrils, into the abdomen (this fills in the lower part of the lungs). Your stomach will expand, and raise the book up.
- After you fill in the abdomen, start breathing into the mid-lungs, i.e. chest region.
- After you fill in the chest region, you breathe into the shoulder (top of lungs). Breathing into this region requires practice, so don’t sweat it, if you can’t initially.
- Exhalation—you do in the reverse order—through both nostrils.
- First, exhale air from the shoulders.
- Then exhale air from the chest.
- Then, exhale air from the abdomen, by contracting the abdomen in toward the spine, which brings the book down.
- This completes one cycle.
- Do 16 cycles of this breathing.
- After you finish 16 cycles, just stay still and observe the quality of breath. Do not make any changes to its rhythm or judge it in anyway. Just observe.
Some Important Points to Follow
- Inhalation and exhalation should be of same length. You can count the time. Ideally, you want to do something like 4 seconds into abdomen + 4 seconds into chest + 2 seconds into shoulders while inhaling and using the same count for each region while exhaling. However, 10 seconds may be too demanding for beginners. So, experiment with these counts to come up with a count that is comfortable for you. Longer the times the better, but that requires practice. Make sure that your counts for abdomen and chest are equal, and that for shoulders is half that count. If you can’t keep the counts so balanced, it is okay. It will come with practice.
- The inhalation and exhalation should be smooth. Do not strain. Do not hold breath at any point. If at any point you feel dizzy or painful, stop. Give a few minutes of rest and then start again. Pain is there because you probably never used those muscle in your life. It will become easier with practice. Fill in various regions of your torso to the level that you are comfortable with. Breathing into lower lungs (abdomen) is very important—even if you can breathe only a little bit of air into the abdomen, it is good.
- NOTE—After you become comfortable with the breathing technique, you should add one more element—touching the tip of your tongue to the soft palate on the roof of your mouth (called khEcarI mudra in yOga literature) with mouth closed, throughout the breathing exercise. This mudra is supposed to complete the energy circuit.
Deep Breathing in Lying Down Position without the Book
After you know how to do the deep breathing with a book, you can proceed to practice the same without the book.
Deep Breathing in Sitting Up Position
You can do the above breathing technique sitting up one the floor or in a chair with your spine erect. Of course, you will not use a book in this case.
In the next sections I describe two variations of Breathing Techniques for Self-Healing using the Deep abdominal breathing technique mentioned above.
Breathing Technique for Self-Healing (Variation-1)
Use Deep Breathing Technique here.
- While inhaling, you visualize brilliant white light pouring down on to your heart chakra located, on the sternum, at the center point of the line joining the two nipples. This chakra is a disk of about the size of your palm. So, you can visualize a pillar of light coming down and becoming a brilliant ball inside the chest.
- Then, while exhaling you visualize, the ball of light diffusing and the light going to the affected part of the body and visualize that the affected part of the body is glowing and becoming brilliant and healthy, while expelling grayish diseased light from that part out into the space. You should visualize gray light disintegrating far away from your body in space.
- You do this for 12 cycles.
- For the next 4 breaths the inhalation step is same as Step-1, but for the exhalation step, you visualize that the ball of light in your chest expanding filling every pore of your body and that your whole body is glowing and healthy. Visualize that the light is not only filling the body, but also expanding beyond it and filling the entire room and beyond.
Breathing Technique for Self-Healing (Variation-2)
Use Deep Breathing Technique here.
- While inhaling, you visualize brilliant white light entering the affected part directly from space.
- While exhaling you visualize that the affected body part is becoming brilliant and healthy, while expelling the grayish diseased light out into space. Again, You should visualize grayish light disintegrating far away from the body in space.
- Do this for 12 breaths.
- For the next 4 breaths, use the Step-4 of Variation-1.
You can choose either Variation 1 or Variation 2 based on your comfort.
As I said before, if you feel dizzy or too much discomfort, stop and take rest for a few minutes and do it again. You can do this healing breath as often as you like, but after a full session of 16 breaths give rest for at least two hours before the next session.