3 Ways Pranayama Breathing Can Save Your Professional Life

Jessie Waite
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Somedays, it is literally all I can do to keep from strangling my boss, crying uncontrollably, or crawling under my desk to take a nap. Sound familiar? Stress, anxiety and lethargy seem to be common issues in the modern workplace. If you’ve ever had a job or been a student, you know that stress gets in the way of what you want to accomplish. Thankfully, one of the best ways to cope with a tough workday is to simply breathe.
 
Pranayama is a form of breathing exercise and is one of the best ways a person can connect their body and mind. In Sanskrit, prana means life force energy, often referred to as qi (pronounced “chee”), and yama means vehicle or control, so pranayama means control over your life force energy. Yogis have been practicing Pranayama since ancient times, and it is still one of the best ways to cope with workplace-induced stress, anxiety and lethargy. As a result of chronic stress or fatigue, many people develop unhealthy breathing patterns that only perpetuate a person’s stress or fatigue levels. Practicing Pranayama can help a person become more mindful of their breathing, and can help you lead a healthier, happier life.

When I’m feeling worn-out by work or beat-down by my job, I often practice a few minutes of Pranayama breathing.
 
Here are three of my favorite Pranayama techniques that will help you stay sane at work and in life:
 

1. Deep Three-Part Breathing: De-Stress and Re-Focus

Personally, this breathing technique has saved me from a meltdown when I was under incredible stress. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of deep, three-part breathing, otherwise known as Dirgha Pranayama; the results can be powerful. The best part? It’s discreet, so you can literally do it anywhere without causing too many side-ways glances from cubicle-mates or strangers on a train.

Directions:
Sit in a comfortable position, whether it’s in a chair or in sukhasana (easy cross-legged pose). Check in with your posture: extend the crown of your head skyward, lengthen your spine, and relax your shoulders and arms. Next, bring your awareness to your breath. Try to expand your inhales a little more with each breath.

Now you are ready for the three-part breath. Inhale, filling your belly, expanding into your rib cage, and all the way up to your collarbone. At the top, hold the breath in. Then, exhale the opposite way, pressing the air down from the collarbone, compressing the rib cage, and finally emptying the belly entirely. Continue this same inhale/pause/exhale rhythm. Try elongating your inhales to the count of six, pausing at the top for a count of two, then exhaling for a count of seven.

Pro Tip: Close your eyes. Rest one hand on your belly and the other on your chest to feel the air travel in and out of your body.
 

 

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Nature’s Xanax

Stress and anxiety can make you do crazy things – like communicating ineffectively during an interview, or completely forgetting your research during a presentation. Alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Sodhana, is profoundly calming and balancing, as it works to bring equilibrium to the two hemispheres of your brain. Use alternate nostril breathing to find calm and composure any time you are feeling anxious, worked up, or nervous.

Directions:
Make a fist with your right hand, then extend your thumb, pinky and ring finger – this is called the Vishnu Mudra. Close your right nostril using your right thumb. Exhale completely out your left nostril, then inhale deeply. At the top of your inhale, switch: close your left nostril with your pinky and ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale deeply, and at the top of your inhale, switch again. Continue this pattern, keeping the breath comfortable and smooth for a few rounds.

Pro Tip: Blow your nose or clear your nasal passageways using a neti pot before practicing.

 

3. Bellows Breath: Wake Up and Recharge

Do you find yourself in need of a nap around 3pm? Instead of reaching for a latte, try Bellows Breath, or Bhastrika! Bellows Breath is a great way to wake-up and boost your productivity when you are feeling sluggish. It increases circulation and brings fresh blood to the brain. This particular form of Pranayama can help you get over writer’s block and tap into your creative processes. 3pm is also a great time to practice this breathing technique, as it’s typically not recommended to be practiced within two hours of a meal.

Directions:
Starting in a seated position, check in with your posture. Exhale forcefully through your nose for a count of two. When your lungs are empty, inhale with equal force for a count of two. Use your stomach muscles to power the inhales and exhales: imagine your muscles pumping air in and out like a blacksmith’s bellows. Repeat approximately 10 times, which constitutes one round. Eventually, as you progress and feel more comfortable with this practice, you can do two to three rounds.

Pro Tip: Stop if you feel dizzy or light-headed.

 
These Pranayama techniques are a great way to get out of a slump in your day. Whether you are in need of some stress relief, a little balance, or a pick-me-up, Pranayama breathing is a healthy, effective, and relatively simple way to get yourself back on track.

Give these techniques a try, and let us know how they work for you. What are some other ways you use your yoga practice to stay sane at work? Please share in the comments below – we love hearing from you!

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Alternate Nostril Breathing: Use This Pranayama Technique For Stress Relief
Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nodi Sodhana Pranayama, is a conscious breathing technique that reduces stress and anxiety. Learn how to practice it here!
Read »

Jessie Waite

Jessie Bell Waite has a degree in Political Science, works in Occupational Health and Safety, and teaches yoga part-time to the members of her small, farming community in Oregon. She likes exploring the relationship between yoga and workplace wellness. She loves green smoothies, long savasanas, her pets and her handsome husband.

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