Breathwork: How to Practice Pranayama
“Healing is every breath.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Most of the time, we don’t give our normal breathing a second thought. For healthy people, breathing is just another involuntary physiological process of the body. However, breathwork is more than just instinctive breathing, and it is something that can be incorporated into every wellness regime.
Learning to control your breath, also known as pranayama, can greatly influence overall health. For cannabis consumers especially, breath is important. Cannabis users may even be at an advantage to practicing breathwork. Studies have shown that participants who used cannabis had greater lung function versus non-smokers, which should make pranayama practice perhaps easier and more natural.
What is Breathwork and What are the Benefits?
Breathwork involves conscious controlled breathing intended to provide a therapeutic effect on one’s mental, emotional, and/or physical state. Yet, it usually isn't until something causes us to become aware of our breathing that we are reminded of how powerful breath actually is on both our physical and emotional state.
It has been well documented that the mind, body, and breath are intricately connected. Benefits of pranayama have been said to include reduced stress, increased relaxation, improved energy, and much more. There are many variations of pranayama. It can be a short and simple practice all on its own, combined with a meditation practice, or incorporated into a yoga sequence.
There are many ways to practice pranayama, all with their own unique benefits. It is important to note that are a few variations that should be avoided in people with underlying health conditions. For example, people with cardiovascular issues should not practice Ujjayi pranayama. Always research your individual health conditions to rule out any contraindications before practicing a new technique.
Put Pranayama into Practice – Right at Home
The 4-4-4 breath technique is a simple, well-known technique which produces an almost instantaneous calming effect. It is a highly effective mindful meditation practice that uses the breath as a reference point. The 4-4-4 method can be ideal for use as needed when under stressful situations, or used with the intention of creating focus to begin the day, or peace to unwind at the end the day. It is also a great complimentary practice for other treatment and healing modalities (cannabis included).
Begin/end the pranayama practice with a short period of meditation (optional)
Simply inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Repeat 3-4 times, or as desired. As soon as the mind starts to wander, return your attention to the natural inhale and exhale patterns of the body.