When I first started my inner work to heal myself, (which included dropping out of college at 18 to pursue a yoga teacher training), breath work felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Not to mention I was smoking cigarettes at the time, so to focus deeply on the physical reminder of how I was hurting myself was painful. For me, there was also fear, an anxiety, associated with letting go of my control and surrendering to the breath. When practicing breath work it is important to seek guidance and to honor one's own boundaries and comfort level.
I find myself approaching another similar transitional period in my life. This means I am leaning on my meditation tools to help me more than ever.
I was hesitant to practice breathwork again during this weird difficult time in my life because certain breathing techniques can induce intense physical or emotional sensations, which can be overwhelming for people who are not prepared for or accustomed to such experiences. Hell, I even avoid breath work sometimes just because I dislike the feeling of being uncomfortable in my body.
It is important to approach breath work with guidance and to honor one's own boundaries and comfort level. There are so many techniques to acquire and learn, and not all of them are appropriate for every body.
Despite this hesitation to practice pranayama again, a familiar beast is always less terrifying than a new one. My favorite breath to work on lately has been an extended exhale box breath, also known as retention breath. In Sanskrit it is called Sama vritti.
*Caution if you have any upper respiratory or other physical conditions please be gentle with yourself when doing breathwork. You may have a hard time at first, and frustrating feelings may arise. Please be gentle and know that you can tailor instruction to fit your comfort.
Throat Lock Meditation
Length: 6 Minutes
Sit in comfortable position
Take a moment to tune into the natural rhythm of your breath
Inhale and lengthen the spine
Exhale perform a gentle twist or lateral stretch on both sides
Come back to center alignment
Box Breath Intro:
Inhale into the clavicles (collar bones)
Hold the breath for a few seconds
Exhale through the crown of the skull (This can feel like a push/pull force)
Throat Lock Activation:
Inhale into the collar bones
Tuck the chin into chest (this is the “lock”)
Retain (hold) the breath in this position for a few seconds.
(If you are new to this you may only be able to hold for 3-4 seconds,
be gentle and release when your body is telling you to.)
Exhale through the crown of the skull (top of the head)
Allow yourself to establish a normal breathing rhythm before opening the eyes and allowing the room/space to enter your line of vision. Notice how you feel. Offer up an intention for your practice if you wish.
Breathwork doesn't have to be scary; it can be incredibly beneficial. By approaching it with guidance and honoring your boundaries, you can experience positive effects on your well-being. Start with gentle techniques and gradually explore more advanced ones. Breathwork helps release stress, calm the mind, and connect with your inner self. It can support you during transitional periods and help you overcome challenges. Approach breathwork gently if you have respiratory or physical conditions. Incorporate it into your meditation routine to deepen your practice and enhance its benefits. Breathwork is a beautiful practice as is life itself.