Mindvalley Blog

2 Pranayama Exercises To Help You Conquer The Winter Blues

pranayama

Fall’s on the out and chilly winter is making its entrance. Dethaw with these two warming winter pranayama exercises.

1. Kapalabhati Pranayama

This pranayama exercise both enlivens and cleanses. It emphasizes forceful exhalations with passive exhalations. The movements come from the abdomen, stoking the digestive fire and increasing internal heat.

Kapalabhati pranayama means “shining skull breath.” While its name isn’t meant to be taken literally, there’s certainly some truth to the claim. Kapalabhati is a very warming pranayama. It increases the internal fire, or tejas, which is explained in ayurveda as the essence that gives us a healthy glow.

Sometimes kapalabhati is translated as “frontal brain cleansing.” It opens the sinuses, which is why it’s also considered to be one of yoga’s shatkarma, or cleansing practices. It’s definitely a useful pranayama in the winter and spring months when excess mucus can accumulate.

How to practice Kapalabhati Pranayama

  1. Sit tall in a comfortable position, whether it’s with your legs tucked under you, crossed, or folded in lotus. Rest your hands on your lap. Relax your shoulders down your back. Close your eyes. Take a few natural breaths.
  2. Take a natural inhalation through your nose. Exhale forcefully through your nose by quickly drawing your belly toward your spine. This action will move the air up and out. Allow the next inhalation to happen on its own, then exhale forcefully. Repeat 10 times total. Keep a medium pace.
  3. After the last round, return to natural breathing. Take a few natural breaths. Repeat up to 5 times, for beginners. After you’re finished, rest for a few minutes in savasana.

Be aware of the following:

  1. Moving the body while exhaling. All of the movement should originate in the abdomen. Take care not move your shoulders or chest as you exhale.
  2. Scrunching the face. Relax the facial muscles.
  3. Getting dizzy. If you feel light headed, you may be practicing incorrectly. Always learn pranayama directly from a yoga teacher.
  4. Nasal cleansing. Keep some tissues nearby as this practice truly opens the sinuses.

pranayama exercise

2. Bhastrika Pranayama

Unlike kapalabhati, where only the exhalations are forceful, bhastrika pranayama involves both forceful inhalations and exhalations. It means “bellows breath” as its action is much like the bellow used to stoke a fire.

Because bhastrika is such a dynamic practice, it builds a lot of internal heat. Like kapalabhati, it’s also considered a cleansing practice. The rapid exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream increases the metabolic rate and flushes out toxins.

At the same time, the rapid downward movement of the diaphragm massages the internal organs. It’s another digestive fire-boosting pranayama and perfect for the cool winter months.

How to practice Bhastrika Pranayama

  1. Sit tall in a comfortable position, whether it’s with your legs tucked under you, crossed, or folded in lotus. Rest your hands on your lap. Relax your shoulders. Close your eyes. Take a few natural breaths.
  2. Take a deep and exaggerated breath through your nose, filling your belly. Immediately afterward exhale in a deep and exaggerated way through your nose, drawing your belly toward your spine. Keep the spine straight throughout this practice and the breath rhythmically. Repeat 10 times.
  3. After the last round, return to natural breathing. Take a few natural breaths. Repeat up to 5 times for beginners. After you’re finished, rest for a few minutes in savasana.

Be aware of the following:

  1. Moving the chest and shoulders during the practice. Allow the movement to come from the abdomen.
  2. Scrunching the face. Relax the facial muscles.
  3. Getting dizzy. If you feel light headed or have excessive perspiration, you may be practicing incorrectly. Always learn pranayama directly from a yoga teacher.
  4. Straining. Any pranayama should be done without strain, but be especially mindful during bhastrika.

pranayama breathing

It’s important that you take good care of your body when performing these breathing practices. You shouldn’t practice these pranayama exercises if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant, have epilepsy, have a hernia or gastric ulcer, or have asthma or bronchitis.

When practiced correctly, both kapalabhati and bhastrika pranayama have an energizing and warming effect on the body. They’re the perfect winter morning practices, waking up both body and mind and bringing cleansing internal heat.

If you’re curious to know more about how the breath can affect the body, listen to Zenward’s co-founder, Cecilia Sardeo:


Have you ever practiced a pranayama breathing exercise before?

How did it go?

Tell us all about it in the comments below!  

Mindvalley

Mindvalley

Education for People Who Refuse to Fit into the Ordinary World

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