Today’s pranayama may be practiced as two separate breath exercises, or in tandem as a phenomenal boost to your physical and emotional well-being.
The first breath is fairly straightforward: Lion’s Breath. In most instructions for the pranayama, you will find that the head is tilted back during exhalation. While this is a nice stretch for the throat and allows for greater extension of the tongue, it may not be comfortable or advisable for anyone with cervical spine issues. That’s okay: Allow the head to remain in a neutral position; you will still reap the cleansing benefits for your digestive system.
As a stand-alone technique, Lion’s Breath is most often practiced in vajrasana (rock, or thunderbolt, pose). Vajrasana by itself is an aid to digestion; the addition of Lion’s Breath further enhances the digestive system’s ability to function optimally. So, sit on your heels, knees and feet as close together as possible; hands rest on thighs, palms down. To modify, put a pillow under your thighs, or simply sit in a chair, feet flat on the ground.
To begin, inhale powerfully and deeply through your nose. As you exhale, stick your tongue out, as if to touch your chin, and let your mouth open wide: accompany the forceful yet steady exhalation with a loud, “Huh,” or “Ah.” Let the vocalization emanate from the back of your throat, so that you expel any latent anger or frustration. Regardless of whether you have tilted your head back as you stick your tongue out, focus your open eyes on the Third Eye.
Do Lions’s Breath three times as a practice, or just once when you need a quick stress release.
The second breath is one I learned while studying the Lessons of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship. I use it often, sometimes unconsciously and spontaneously when I feel a physical or emotional build-up of pressure. The relief is instant and lasting.
Essentially, this is a two-part breath on both the inhale and exhale. As you inhale, sniff in a quick, short breath, followed by a longer breath in to complete the inhale; as you exhale, loosely open the mouth to release a short breath, again followed by a longer breath to complete. The sound upon exhalation is “hae-haaaae” (sort of between “ha” and “huh”).
Double Breathing has no prescribed posture for practice; however, the SRF pairs it with a variety of movements. My favorite begins standing, arms out to the sides at shoulder level. As you do the double-breath inhale, pull the arms back slightly to open and stretch the chest. As you exhale, circle the arms forward to touch the palms together; as you do this, gently bend the knees and round the back.
If you prefer to stand still or to be seated with Double Breathing, feel free: Just remember that any pranayama works best when the spine is upright and aligned. Experiment with positioning during Double Breathing, and allow your body’s intuition to guide you.
And finally, here’s the combination for an even greater spark to your system: Use the tongue-out position of Lion’s Breath when you do the two-part exhale of SRF’s Double Breathing; however, use the more relaxed sounding of Double Breathing, as opposed to the more forceful Lion’s Breath variation.