Pranayama is a form of involuntary, continuous action of inhaling, retention, and exhaling that can be controlled quickly or slowly.  The name Pranayama is Sanskrit for “extension of breath or life force”.  It is used in yoga to help clear and cleanse the body and the mind.  By controlling your breathing, your whole system becomes controlled.  This form of breathing is helpful as a first step in preparing for the meditation process.

There is great truth behind the saying, just take a deep breath; it calms us.  Oxygen is one of the most vital nutrients for our bodies.  Adding Pranayama breathing techniques to your daily life can bring about many positive and healthy changes.

Some Benefits of Pranayama include:

*Cleansing and purification of the respiratory system
*Aids in detoxification of the blood stream and organs
*Tones the nervous system and slows the electrical impulses and their responses in the brain
*Assists in digestion
*Positively affects the immune system
*Strengthen and purifies the mind, enhances perception
*Increases alertness of the mind
*Beneficial in treating stress disorders
*Relieves asthma symptoms

Although there are several forms of Pranayama, here are the basic steps of performing the exercise:

1.  Sit comfortably, with your back tall and shoulders relaxed.  Let go of any tension.
2.  Take in a deep breath in through your nose very slowly.
3.   As you intake air, pull your belly inwards while heaving out your chest. Keep your abdominal muscles tight.
4.  Hold the breath and count five.
5.  Then gradually exhale through the mouth and relax your abdominal muscles.
6.  Wait for two seconds and then repeat.

Note: there are some forms of Pranayama that are not suitable during pregnancy or for those who suffer asthma which involve long periods of holding your breath or those that involve contracting your stomach muscles.


8 Best Ways to Meditate

When meditating, try to focus your mind on a particular part of the body. Notice how the blood flow to that part rises. You will feel that part of the body get warmer as cells begin to receive more oxygen and other nutrients in abundance. In addition, meditation enhances the immune system. Research has revealed that it improves and increases the activity of ‘natural-killer cells’, which help the body combat infections like HIV, as well as cancer.

Furthermore, every person is different. When you go to meditate, you may find that one type of meditation works for you and the other does not. From concentrated breathing to active meditation, there is something for everyone. Read about the different types of meditation below, which are arranged in no particular order, and figure out which one is right for you.

Types of Meditation:

  • Breathing Meditation – this type of meditation focuses on your breathing. Start by finding a quiet place, somewhere where you can concentrate. Assume a comfortable, sitting position, making sure to keep the spine straight. Close your eyes and place your hand on your abdomen so you can feel the breathing process. Exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Inhale as slowly as possible through your nose, until you can no longer breathe in. Hold for a second or two. Now, exhale as slowly as possible from your mouth, until you can no longer breathe out. Hold for a second or two and repeat the process. Do this 20 times, or until you feel relaxed. Focus entirely on your breathing and nothing else throughout this exercise.
  • Walking Meditation – start by planning out your walk. It should be at least 20 minutes in length. As you’re walking, take note of everything; the sound of the birds chirping or the wind blowing through the trees. Feel the earth beneath your feet and smell the aroma of nature. These sensatory exercises will help keep you in touch with nature and with yourself. Also, make sure to look around. We often look at our feet when we walk, but that is no good for meditation. Keep your head up and your pace steady.
  • Guided Meditation – this is usually performed with the help of a CD, DVD, or downloadable audio file. Your instructor will lead you through a number of exercises that will help you release muscle tension and achieve a higher level of relaxation. This type of meditation is great for beginners who may not know how to meditate on their own.
  • Mantra Meditation – a mantra is a word or phrase you can repeat to yourself during meditation. It can be spoken aloud as you exhale, chanted, or thought silently. Your mantra should be a positive thought like “I am strong” or “I feel at home.” It can also be a single word like “hush” or “calm.” Be sure not to rush your mantra. If you are saying your mantra silently in your head, break it up. Think “I am” on the inhale, “strong” on the exhale. Absorb your mantra, slowly and calmly.
  • Binaural Beats Meditation – Playing a different sound in each ear creates a binaural beat. The interference pattern between the slightly different frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. Your brain will try to figure out the difference in the tones, which brings about a meditative state. You can buy this type of meditation on CD or as a downloadable file. It usually last from 30 to 60 minutes. Binaural beats meditation is great for beginners!
  • Mindfulness Meditation – this type of meditation involves a great level of acceptance. It is performed the same way as breathing meditation, except you are not required to focus all of your thoughts on breathing. Rather, be aware of your breathing and use it as your anchor. The key is to keep your mind in the present, forgetting the past and the future. Don’t suppress you’re thoughts, no matter how insignificant. Rather, identify each thought as it crosses your mind, whether it is a worry, fear, or hope. Remember not to judge or be hard on yourself if your mind wanders. Stay calm and collected.
  • Active Meditation – most people practice active meditation on a daily basis and don’t even know it. It happens when you stop thinking about everything that going on around you and focus on what you are doing in that moment. You are “in the zone.” Examples of active meditation include painting, drawing, journaling, Yoga, gardening, fixing a car, crocheting, brushing your dog… pretty much anything!
  • Spiritual Meditation – whatever God, universe, or higher form you adhere to, spiritual meditation involves connecting with that belief. Try praying or just listening to your deity. Praying in itself is a form of meditation used all around the world. It can help you seek guidance and establish a deep sense of self-awareness.