Different pranayama patterns may be helpful for different situations and contexts.
First you should get used to engaging your diaphragm when you breathe normally, then you focus on posture with a healthy lumbar curve, aligning the head with the heart, shoulders away from the ears with shoulder blades dropped down the back. Then you may start practicing some of these breathing patterns for a few minutes and learn how to engage the anatomical places or bandhas you need. It’s a process, so it takes time.
To connect your diaphragm, try practicing filling an air balloon: that extra push you need to counteract initial’s balloon resistance is your diaphragm activating. Professional singers and wind instruments performers know this sensation well because they use it all times. Bandhas are simple groups of muscles that are reachable trough concentration and practice and help us direct the wave generated by the inhalation and exhalation to different parts. Mula bandha, starts in the muscles of the perineum and pelvic floor. Uddiyana bandha, engages a subtle contraction of the transverse abdominis muscle just below the navel.
Jalandhara bandha, is activated by contraction of the epiglottis and partial closing of vocal chords, allowing better air flow control. Check our Intro to Pranayama video here
To guide you through your breathing control learning process we did this PRANAYAMA decision tree that you can also download here .
As a rule of thumb if you are feeling very anxious, hyped or you just need to rest and cool off, look for more exhale. If you are feeling unmotivated, depressed or very tired you need to speed up, so you should look for heat generation and more inhale. For concentration and focus on high demanding situations look for more anatomical complex patterns such as Ujayi or Nadi Shodhana. And for recovering and protecting yourself from strong emotions look for rooting and centering patterns by slowing your normal breathing and focusing on exhale.
During general dynamic Yoga practice is good to use Ujayi and normal smooth breathing. Equal breathing pranayama like Sma vrtti is used in conservative, adapted or therapeutic postures. To meditate you can use any pattern, depending on the stage you are or the focus of your meditation.
1. Chandra bedhana (moon activation)
You breathe through your left nostril to activate a calmer, rest type of energy.
2. Surya Bedhana (sun activation)
You breathe through your right nostril to activate a more active, action type of energy.
3. Sma Vrtti
You aim to level all breathing phases (inhaling- post inhale pause-exhaling- post exhale pause) and train to make all process to long for last.
4. Viloma with retention in exhale
It’s like Sma Vrtti but you inhale in three quick phases and then retain in the exhale phase by increasing exhalation time. It allows you to find a safe space inside and cool down from high demanding contexts.
5. Viloma with retention in inhale
It’s like Sma Vrtti but you retain inhale and exhale in three quick phases. Very used in meditation but it should be avoided when you are hyped as it activates you more by bringing extra air in. It’s ideal though when you feel a bit down.
A powerfull and fast pattern with focus on the exhale and in anatomical control. It helps when you are feeling down as it brings pleasant mental sensations and serves body detoxification and elimination.
Is also a powerful pattern used to level both inhale and exhale as it builds the breathing cycle from a controlled wave spine movement. It aids to bring heat to your core and pleasant sensations to your mind.
This breathing pattern is a bit difficult to master but is very complete as it engages all bandhas in a piston like movement. It increases blood flow to all your vital organs, generates heat, helps focus or concentration and it can be used as an activating and self-control tool almost in every situation.
9. Nadi Shodhana
This alternated nostril breathing cycle helps focusing, centering and rooting. It’s a good substitute of yoga practice for those days you couldn’t make it.
Essentially a rooting pattern that consists in increasing pauses and time suspension between inhale and exhale.
11. Shitkari Kumbaka
It is a physical refreshing and cooling down breathing technique ideal for hot climates or for those frantic days.
12. Simhasa or Lion’s Breath
It is ideal to bring relativity and positive vibes to situations that need to be dissipated, as it may set you to laugh at yourself.