In previous posts, I have suggested pranayama techniques (breath work) to ease one’s way through stressful circumstances. Today’s post, however, offers a few pranayama exercises that will help you reconnect to your breath after the “threat” has passed. Think of it as the cool-down to a tough workout: You would likely devote time and effort to ensure that your muscles are ready to roll for your next training session or outdoor activity. Your breath needs the same attention. Without adequate encouragement, it may remain short or shallow post-challenge; what it needs, though, is focused technique and a few (or several—your choice) minutes to reconnect with your physical, mental, and emotional bodies.
The initial phase is that of awareness. Choose a seated position that allows your spine to be long and aligned with your shoulders relaxed. Often, it is suggested that one place the hands on the Dan Tien (area just below the navel) when connecting to the breath. In this instance, however, I suggest the following hand placement: one palm in the upper chest, so that the fingers and thumb lie on the left and right side of the collar bone; and the other palm against the upper belly/solar plexus area. Allow your arms to rest easily against your body, and breathe as your own state of being dictates. With your eyes closed, ease into a gentle awareness of the pace and quality of your breath at the moment.
After about a minute of reacquainting yourself with your breath, let your hands relax into your lap, palms up. Consciously begin to deepen and lengthen each inhale and exhale. Begin moderately, inhaling for 4 counts, exhaling for 4. After a few rounds, lengthen the inhale to 6, keeping the exhale to 4 counts. Continue for about 3-5 full rounds. Finally, spend at least a minute inhaling for 8 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts.
Next, fully re-establish your breath’s ability to effect change in various aspects of your being. When one uses the breath in conjunction with internal energy paths and mentally directed visualization, multiple Bodies of the 10 Bodies (as conceived in kundalini yoga) are stimulated. For this final phase of “befriending” your breath, lie on your back with eyes closed. Begin simply with a deep inhale: As your rib cage expands, envision this central area as the round ball of a child-like drawing of the sun; as you exhale, send the breath radiating out of this center as the multiple beams emanating from the “sun ball.” Inhale again into the center of the sun; exhale outward into umpteen directions, just as sunshine beams toward the earth.
Now, do the same thing with each limb. Inhale into the sun’s center; exhale down and out through one leg, all the way past and out of the sole of the foot. Inhale to draw breath back into the sole and up the leg, all the way to the sun’s center; exhale to refill this central breath “port.” Repeat with the other leg, and then the arms.
Finally, roll to one side to rise to a seated posture. Ideally, you will sit on your heels in Rock Pose; feel free to use whatever pillow or bolster support you need. Otherwise, sit in an easy crossed-leg pose. In either case, place your hands palms down on your thighs or knees, wherever they feel most natural and relaxed. With eyes closed and gazing at your Third Eye, breathe simply, fully, and steadily. Note the change in the quality of your breath since you began his practice but minutes ago. As you discern subtle differences in your physical, mental, and energetic states, know that you can call upon this routine whenever you feel a need to regroup or recharge, by way of the breath.