The opening breathing exercise of the Bikram Hot Yoga series is the Pranayama Breathing exercise or Life Force Control ; it teaches you how to control your breathing better and helps unify your mind and the physical body. The breath is the only bodily process we have any conscious control over, making it a unique and vital function. In the world of yoga, the breath is what connects the mind, body, and spirit. The rest of our bodily functions operate from the subconscious and work on autopilot without putting too much thought into them.
The meaning of the Pranayama breathing exercise translated from Sanskrit to English breaks down into two separate parts. The first part is Prana which means Life Force, and the second part of the definition is Yama which has the definition of Control. Pranayama has the pronunciation of Pran - A-Yama for those of you who are just beginning the hot yoga series.
The purpose of doing the Pranayama breathing exercise is to change and slow your breathing patterns while doing your Bikram Hot Yoga practice for the remainder of the series. Another reason for doing this exercise is that it warms your body from the inside out. The most important thing to remember in yoga is putting your breathing and breath ahead of everything else, including the postures. No matter what kind of yoga series you are practicing, having this mindset will help carry you through your practice and make it much more enjoyable.
When you start a regular practice, the Pranayama breathing will begin helping your breathing outside of yoga class. You will start noticing you breathe in and out of your nose slowly and calmly in your everyday essential breathe. Changing and altering your vital ordinary breath helps calm and settle your mind and your overall mood.
The hardest part of the Pranayama breathing in the Bikram Hot Yoga Practice is figuring out how we inhale and exhale in the breathing practice. The first thing to remember is that Pranayama breathing is a form of ujjayi breathing done by constricting the back of the throat. You are breathing through the nose slowly and calmly. The focus is on the back of the throat while doing your breathing exercise.
You need to focus on breathing into the back of the throat and the snoring sound that you should be making while doing this form of breathing. When you inhale, it should sound like the ocean waves calmly rolling in towards the beach. When you exhale, you need to focus again on the back of the throat and keep your mouth open. On the exhale, it should be making the sound of the ocean is rolling back out to the sea.
Now that we understand how we breath in the pose we will take the next step and describe the physical manifestation of the posture. Start by fixing your gaze into the front mirror. Interlace your fingers under your chin as if you are making a fist. Your legs are straight with the weight in the heels. You should have your stomach pulled in throughout the pose. Begin to inhale through the nose and lift elbows up towards the ceiling.
Keep the spine straight and press the shoulders down. When the elbows are lifted at the end of the count of six is when you exhale. When you do your exhale you need to drop the head back. Keep your spine straight and bring the elbows and wrists together. The chest is lifted for the whole exhale. The length of the exhale is six seconds as well. In Bikram you do two sets of Pranayama with ten breathes each.
In summary, Pranayama Breathing is the opening breathing exercise in the Bikram Hot Yoga Series. As in all yoga series, the most important thing to learn is breathing correctly, which Pranayama Breathing will do for in-class and out-of-class results. This breathing exercise helps develop the slow and calm breathing we need to get through our yoga class and everyday life. We do Pranayama Breathing to change our breathing pattern and warm the body from the inside out. Pranayama breathing is a form of ujjayi breathing. In ujjayi breath, you are working on the constriction of the back of the throat. I have written further instructions below on how to do this breathing exercise and some of the health benefits. I hope this article helps improve your Pranayama Breathing Practice and makes this breathing technique a little easier to do for you.