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Pranayama for Beginners

Posted by Dean Jerrehian on
Danny Fluker-Jadeyoga

Your breath is the most important part of your wellness practice. It is your anchor in the life force of your body and is an open door to come home to yourself. 

Let’s explore different pranayama techniques for various experiences within the body throughout the course of the day.  Reducing stress, and finding calm-centering practices are powerful beginner pranayama tools for your practice.

What is pranayama? 

Pranayama is regulation of the breath in even, smooth cycles which opens up the experience of the flow of prana (energy) through the body.  

The cycles of breathing out, breathing in, pausing, and each of the transitions between all of them is pranayama.  

According to Yoga Sutras 2:51 the continuous energy or prana that is preeminent above all is the “fourth prana” which is happening beyond exhalation, inhalation and its transitions. 

What is breathwork?

For the purposes of this article breathwork is a certain exercise utilizing the breath to achieve a specific state of emotional and mental wellbeing. 

“A human being is not body alone, not mind alone. Between body and mind there is something called breath. A human being is a breathing being too. If you want to be healthy and happy and if you wish to experience everlasting peace and tranquility, better pay attention to your breathing.”


Helpful Tips

When utilizing breath in Asana practice remember to inhale on extensions and lengthening of your body and to exhale on contractions and compressions of your body.

Asana movement when breathing in 

  • Lifting arms
  • Opening the chest
  • Arching the back
  • Backbends and extensions 

Asana movement when breathing out 

  • Lowering the arms
  • Compression of the abdomen

  • Pranayama in the Yoga Sutras : Yoga Sutras 2.49-2.53

    Breathwork for Stress

    A common breathwork practice for stress is box breath. The shape of the box is visualized because the cycles of breathing are taken in four parts in four counts. The suggested length of time for each is four counts, however, everyone's breath capacity is different. It’s important that you, or the persons you are sharing this practice with breathe in, out, and hold for as long as is specifically comfortable to them.

    This breathing technique down regulates the nervous system, reducing the effects of cortisol and stress in the brain and body. 


    From a comfortable seated position with your head above your heart in a supported posture with lengthened spine. 

    • Inhale for four counts
    • Hold before exhaling for four counts
    • Exhale for four counts 
    • Hold before inhaling again for four counts

    Repeat 6 to 8 times if this is comfortable and then return to the natural rhythm of your breath.

    Breathwork for Centering / Balance / Homeostasis 

    Sometimes we just need to take a few moments to just sit and be. Sit and breathe. These are the times where it may be the middle of the day and we need mindful moments of reflection and recalibration or in the evening time we may find ourselves in need of decompression or release of the things of the day. Try out this centering breathwork practice for down regulation of your nervous system and producing feelings of calm and stillness. 

    Practice : 

    From a comfortable seated position with your head above your heart in a supported posture with lengthened spine. 

    • Inhale for the count of 6
    • Hold before exhaling for the count of 6
    • Exhale for the count of 6

    Repeat 8 to 10 times if this is comfortable, and then resume your regular breathing.

    Try these beginning pranayama practices and let us know your experience. Share if you find them helpful. 

    References :

    Yoga Zama 200 HR RYT/ PYT Manual Summer 2021, the Lifeologie International School of Psychotherapeutic Yoga

    Danny Fluker, Jr. is a yoga teacher, founder of Black Boys Om and author of A Healing Journal for Black Men: Prompts to Help You Reflect, Grow, and Live With Pride.

    Called a “beautiful and emotionally powerful book is the healing journal we all need today. . . I can’t wait to recommend this book to my Black male clients. This book is by someone who gets it—a community insider who has and is walking the road toward healing.”  Available at Amazon.

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