Breathe Easy: Relax with Pranayama

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son, Hayes, told me he was having trouble falling asleep. He said that he was having “many thoughts” at night and couldn’t stop his mind from thinking. I told him about a breathing practice that I had taught his older brother, Calder, a few years earlier, and I suggested that Hayes could try it while lying in bed at night to help him relax and fall asleep. The practice was simple: a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing followed by a few minutes of consciously and gently extending each exhalation.

“Maybe you’d like to try it?” I said to Hayes. “I think it was helpful for your brother sometimes, and maybe it will help you, too.” Just then, Calder, who had been passing through the room, announced: “You’re wrong, Mom.” I held my breath, wondering if he’d tell Hayes that my advice wasn’t going to work. “It doesn’t help me sometimes,” he said matter-of-factly. “It helps me all the time.”

I was pleasantly stunned. I hadn’t realized that Calder was still using the practice I had taught him three years earlier. As I knelt on the living room floor to teach Hayes the same practice, I was reminded that pranayama, the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra, does not have to be complicated.

Pranayama, which literally means “to extend the vital life force,” or prana, is an incredibly rich practice made up of many breathing techniques that vary in complexity from ones simple enough for a child to do to those appropriate only for advanced practitioners. While the best way to practice pranayama is under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques—such as gentle diaphragmatic breathing and comfortably lengthening the exhalation—that can be used at any time to transform not only your breath but also your state of mind.

In my work as a yoga therapist, I treat people struggling with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, and even life-threatening illness. Time and time again, I’ve seen simple pranayama practices reduce stress and anxiety; promote restful sleep; ease pain; increase attention and focus; and, on a more subtle level, help people connect to a calm, quiet place within so that they experience greater clarity and well-being on every level.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. Most people’s unconscious breathing patterns are anything but easeful and smooth; they tend to be tense, shallow, and erratic. When we are afraid or hear bad news, we often gasp—inhaling and then holding the breath. These breathing patterns can activate the sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).

One of the primary reasons that pranayama techniques that foster a long, smooth exhale (like the ones presented here) are so beneficial is because, when practiced correctly, they can support the parasympathetic nervous system and activate what is commonly known as the “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, your resilience in the face of challenge or adversity increases, and your mind becomes more focused and still.

A Quiet Mind

The eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra are a path to help you reach a state of Yoga, or focused concentration. But this focused concentration is not the end goal. As Patanjali tells us, the result of reaching this state of attention is that you experience clearer perception and a greater connection with your true Self.

When you’re connected with your true Self, it becomes easier to see what is not your true Self—your mind, body, thoughts, feelings, job, and essentially all of the changing circumstances around you. This discernment allows you to act from a place of the Self, and when you do that, you experience less suffering.

Pranayama is an important tool to get you to this state of more focused concentration, leading you to clearer perception, a greater connection with the Self, and ultimately a happier life. In Yoga Sutra 2.52, Patanjali writes, “As a result [of pranayama], the covering that blocks our own inner light is reduced.” In other words, through the practice of pranayama, you can reduce all of the mental noise—the agitation, distractions, and self-doubt—that prevents you from connecting with your own inner light, your true Self. In this way, pranayama can have a profound effect on your life.

Intro to Pranayama: 3 Practices to Get Started

Though practice of pranayama is safest and most effective when guided by an experienced teacher who knows your needs and capabilities, there are several simple techniques you can try at home as long as you’re in good health and you don’t push beyond your capacity.

The three breathing practices that follow—relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing; Sitali (or Sitkari) Pranayama; and gentle “extended exhale” breathing—are a good introduction to pranayama. Each supports the parasympathetic nervous system, quiets the mind, and helps to bring about a state of more focused attention. As you continue to practice these techniques over time, you may start to notice when you are unintentionally holding your breath or breathing shallowly. You also may begin to associate patterns of the breath with your moods or states of mind. This self awareness is the first step toward using the practices of pranayama to help shift your patterns and, through regular practice, create positive change in your life.

Try each practice daily for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind in order to figure out which is best for you. You can do them at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.

Basic Breath Awareness

This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.


Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.

Try It

At least once a day, at any time.

How To

Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.

Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

The Cooling Breath (Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama)

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.


Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.

Try It

Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

How To
Sitali Pranayama

Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

Sitkari Pranayama

Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

The Long Exhale

This 1:2 breathing practice, which involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation, relaxes the nervous system.


Can reduce insomnia, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

Try It

Before bedtime to help support sleep, in the middle of the night when you’re struggling with insomnia, or at any time of the day to calm stress or anxiety. (In general, it’s best to avoid practicing 1:2 breathing first thing in the morning unless you’re experiencing anxiety. The relaxing effects of the practice tend to make it more difficult to get up and go on with your day.)

How To

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a palm on the abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths, feeling the abdomen expand on the inhalation and gently contract on the exhalation. With your palm on your abdomen, mentally count the length of each inhalation and exhalation for several more breaths. If the inhalation is longer than the exhalation, you can begin to make them the same length over the next few breaths.

Once your inhalation and exhalation are equal, gradually increase the length of your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds by gently contracting the abdomen. As long as the breath feels smooth and relaxed, continue to gradually increase the exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds once every few breaths. Make sure you experience no strain as the exhalation increases and keep going until your exhalation is up to twice the length of the inhalation, but not beyond. For example, if your inhalation is comfortably 4 seconds, do not increase the length of your exhalation to more than 8 seconds.

Keep in mind that even an exhalation that is only slightly longer than the inhalation can induce a calming effect, so take care that you don’t push yourself beyond your capacity. (If you do, you’ll likely activate the sympathetic nervous system, or stress response, and feel agitated rather than calm.)

If your breath feels uncomfortable or short, or if you’re gasping on the next inhalation, back off to a ratio that is more comfortable for 8 to 12 breaths. Then finish your practice with 6 to 8 natural, relaxed breaths.

Kate Holcombe is the founder and president of the nonprofit Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco.


  • You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.

    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you
    who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always
    go after your heart.

  • Pingback: first dildo
  • Sparen Sie an Qualität, so ist die Gefahr der Verknotung und Verwickelung groß!
    Qualität, die Sie nachhaltig von den Vorteilen einer professionellen Haarverlängerung
    überzeugen wird. Ich liebe lange Haare und somit ist für
    mich eine Haarverlängerung genau das Richtige um meine Traumhaare ohne
    Frau. Nach uns werden es wieder andere sein. Unsere Extensions sind vollumfänglich in Lumira Designer integriert und können auch neben anderen der Skript-Sprache genutzt werden.

  • Es tut mir außerordentlich leid, aber das geht nun leider
    nicht anders. Hierbei ist umso mehr der Shop Impressionen zu nennen. Es ist aber bekanntlich
    auch viele weitere Möbelhändler, die bereits eine Bestellung im eigenen Shop für
    die Kunden anbieten. Wir liefern dir deine Einkäufe direkt vom IKEA Einrichtungshaus nicht nur so weit wie
    deiner Tür, sondern auch in das Zimmer deiner

  • In Ungarn arbeitete ich die lezten 4 Jahren unteilbar Telecomunikationsunternehmen. Das Vorgehen ist sehr einfach.Grob Schwarzarbeit einzudämmen, hat der Bund
    auf Anfang 2008 ein vereinfachtes Abrechnungsverfahren eingeführt: Mit einem einzigen Formular
    können Privathaushalte Hausangestellte bei der Sozialversicherung anmelden. Noch besser
    als er, obwohl er auch da weniger Mittel hat als echte Reiche.
    Mobilheimhilfe privat in Espelkamp,Gesucht. Regelmässige Büroreinigung –
    Abstauben Staubsaugen und Böden aufnehmen Erledigen der Einkäufe Fensterreinigung Hausreinigung Büro- Praxisreinigung Gerne kommen wir zu Ihnen, um ein spezielles
    Angebot auf Ihre Unternehmensbedürfnisse zu erarbeiten.

  • Wir sind anlässlich vom internationalen Tag des Buches eingeladen, unsere Bücher im Shop zu präsentieren.
    Esther hatte grosse Freude Vera noch mal zu sehen. Anina und Kathia
    haben unter dem Titel “verzweig” eine sehr stimmige Ausstellung geplant mit
    Künstlerfreunden von und mit Lucie. Anschliessend ein wichtiges
    und aufschlussreiches Strategiegespräch zum Folgerecht und
    das alles in greifbarer Nähe Ostern.

  • I and also my pals have already been reading the good suggestions
    from your web page and all of a sudden developed an awful feeling I had not thanked the web site owner for those secrets.
    The women appeared to be certainly thrilled to learn all of them
    and have in truth been having fun with these things.
    Appreciate your simply being simply accommodating and also for choosing this sort of superb resources most people are really wanting to learn about.
    My very own sincere apologies for not expressing appreciation to sooner.

  • Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile
    friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from
    my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve
    this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.

    With thanks!

  • Wir fuhren hiermit Auto nach Sachseln. Die Buchpremiere feiern wir am Sonntag 8.
    Mai im Bruder Klaus Museum in Sachseln. Das kam ganz gut an.
    Jeden Abend haben mir Vera und Monika geholfen den Versand für die Buchpremiere von David vorzubereiten. In der zeit plane ich zusammen dabei
    Kunstverein St.Gallen und der visarte.ost die Buchpremiere von David Bürkler, die am Samstag 25.
    Juni um 17 Uhr im Kunstmuseum St.Gallen stattfindet.

  • Top-Preise, Offerten und Kostenvoranschläge für ‘5.5 Zimmer Haus reinigen’ finden Sie am einfachsten auf ofri.
    Als Vermieter erhalten Sie einen hohen Reinigungs- und Hygienestandard für
    Ihre Zimmer oder Wohnungen – eines der wichtigsten Kriterien für
    Mieter bei der Auswahl einer Unterkunft. Diese dient dazu, dass Sie mehr Sicherheit haben, dass Ihre Unterkunft ordentlich gereinigt wird.
    Man munkelt, dass ein Raum die Energien der Menschen, die sich darin aufgehalten haben und
    aller Ereignisse, die darin stattgefunden haben, speichert.
    Ob kurzes oder langes, glattes oder gelocktes Haar ist der Laus
    übrigens willkürlich. Je intensiver zum
    Beispiel bestimmte Gefühle sind, umso hartnäckiger können sie im Raum anhaften. Zwar hätten die Mieter die Gefahrenlage durch ihr Handeln veranlasst.

  • Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about.

    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined
    out the whole thing without having side effect ,
    people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.

  • Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice at the
    same time as you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a weblog website?
    The account helped me a applicable deal. I were tiny bit acquainted of this your
    broadcast offered brilliant transparent idea

  • Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your site is
    very cool. I am impressed by the details that you’ve on this website.
    It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will
    come back for more articles. You, my friend,
    ROCK! I found just the info I already searched all over the place
    and simply could not come across. What an ideal web site.

  • Hello! I know this is somewhat off-topic however
    I needed to ask. Does running a well-established website such as
    yours take a massive amount work? I’m brand new to running a blog however I do write in my journal every
    day. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and views online.
    Please let me know if you have any suggestions
    or tips for new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

  • Kacalas gewesen. Nur weil der Gefeuerte “zunächst nimmer erreichbar war”, habe es “Verzögerungen neben anderen die Lohnabrechnung” gegeben, die “inzwischen durch und durch vorgenommen worden” sei.
    Dieser unlautere Wettbewerb, so Arbeitsministerin Monica de
    Coninck und Wirtschaftsminister Johan Vande Lanotte in ihrem Brief fast Kommission, führe dazu, dass Betriebe von Belgien nach
    Deutschland verlagert würden, weil dort insbesondere osteuropäische Arbeiter in Niedriglohnjobs ausgebeutet würden. Erdogan. Der Aufstand sei ein “Geschenk Gottes”, das die “Reinigung des Militärs” beschleunige.
    Die residiert untrennbar polnischen Dorf nordwestlich von Danzig.
    Viel Zwielicht für einen Konzern, an dem die Versorgungsanstalt des
    Bundes und der Länder seit Ende 2013 mit zehn Prozent beteiligt ist.

  • The Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry recipe is among the
    best dessert recipes for weight loss at home.
    These Do Not Deliver Permanent Results – If at all
    some pill is acceptable for you personally, the sad the
    main story will be the reason is impact won’t go
    far for you to savor it. Each day, set goals to the forms of foods you’ll stay with and then any exercise you could
    possibly incorporate into your routine.

  • Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m
    having a difficult time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m
    looking for something unique. P.S My apologies
    for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  • Pingback: rank #1 in google
  • Personenbezogene Daten ihrer Angestellten dürfen die Unternehmen nur dann
    erheben oder verarbeiten, wenn diese für die Entscheidung erforderlich
    sind, ein neues Beschäftigungsverhältnis zu begründen, ein altes zu beenden oder aber im Zusammenhang der bestehenden Tätigkeit nicht gleichgültig sein sind.

    6. Unternehmen dürfen personenbezogene Daten an befugte
    Stellen und in zulässiger Form übermitteln, sofern die Empfänger sich an eine eigens errichtete Zweckbindung
    bei der Nutzung halten. ] In welcher konkreten Form Internationalisierung erfolgt,
    ist abhängig von welcher Situation des jeweiligen Unternehmens
    und seiner Strategie. Internationalisierung heißt die geografische Dezentralisierung der
    Unternehmenstätigkeit auf internationalen Märkten. Die Unternehmung lässt sich durch die organisatorische einheit des dahinter stehenden wirtschaftlichen oder
    ideellen Zwecks kennzeichnen. Häufig werden sie zur Durchführung von Großprojekten gegründet
    und anschließend wieder aufgegeben.

  • Thanks a ton for being my personal lecturer on this theme.

    My spouse and i enjoyed your current article greatly and most of all
    enjoyed how you really handled the areas I widely
    known as controversial. You happen to be always incredibly
    kind towards readers like me and aid me in my life. Thank you.

  • Ziel der ARD-Themenwoche 2009 ist es nun, den Wert und das Ausmaß
    des bürgerschaftlichen Engagements in unserer Gesellschaft sichtbar durchführbar, für
    die Komplexität des Themas zu sensibilisieren und auch zur
    aktiven Mitgestaltung zu ermutigen. Nach einem Kreuzbandriss kehrte Lahm sommers 2005 zum Elf zurück, wo er einen Vertrag bis 2009 unterzeichnete,
    den er mittlerweile bis 2012 verlängerte. Wo sich Menschen engagieren Besonders viele Deutsche engagieren sich innerhalb
    „Sport und Bewegung” (11 Prozent), gefolgt von den Bereichen „Schule und Kindergarten” (7 Prozent) sowie Kirche und
    Religion (6 Prozent). Dieses Anliegen unterstützt sie durch regelmäßige Benefizkonzerte weltweit.
    Dass wir dies diesjährig erneut national, regional und lokal in Gemeinsamkeit mit vielen gesellschaftlichen Institutionen, Verbänden und Organisationen tun, halte
    ich für besonders wertvoll. Sie begann ihre internationale Karriere 1976
    als Solistin bei den Festwochen Luzern und gab im jahr darauf bei
    den Pfingstkonzerten unter der Leitung Herbert von Karajans ihr Salzburg-Debüt.

  • Thanks so much for giving everyone a very breathtaking opportunity to check tips from this site.
    It is often very great and jam-packed with a lot of fun for me and my office co-workers to visit your web site
    nearly thrice in one week to read the fresh secrets you have
    got. Of course, I am usually impressed concerning the surprising
    thoughts you give. Certain 1 ideas in this post are really the simplest we have

Comments are closed.