Pranayama helps us to more deeply connect to the energy that runs through us. This can be done via a variety of breathwork practices. It’s important to understand that the breath is the physical layer through which we can access prana (energy, or life force). There is great power in understanding how and when to move the breath in a specific way through our bodies. Different breath practices serve different purposes and have the ability to offer transformative experiences. In today’s video, Matt explains and demonstrates how and when to utilize various breath techniques to connect with and become more conscious of how breath moves within our bodies. 

Of course, having more knowledge about our anatomy helps increase the benefits of these breathwork techniques. As always, Matt infuses his teachings with anatomy education to give us a broader and more complete picture.

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The diaphragm is the “breathing muscle” we tend to be more familiar with, but there are other muscles that participate in this natural function. In the video, Matt explains that the diaphragm at rest is in a balloon-like shape and up towards the sternum during the exhalation of the breath. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts and flattens downward. If we visualize the movement of the diaphragm as we participate in focused breathwork practices, we can better control where we would like to place the breath in our bodies. As we discuss the various breathwork techniques, we comprehend better why it may be more appropriate to direct the breath more downward into the belly or more upward into the thoracic area of the body.




One of the most important factors of breathwork is to connect with the sensations we’re experiencing. To better prepare our mind and body, we can use a technique that acts as a doorway or entry point into pranayama.

Padadhirasana, or pranayama preparation, is a way to balance the nervous system. In this practice, from a seated position, we place our hands underneath the armpits. Because we continuously fluctuate between favoring either the sympathetic or the parasympathetic nervous system, the practice is thought to aid in stimulating the nostrils (or, if one so chooses, the left- or the right-side nostril), which directly connects to stimulating the sides of the brain. This fluctuation may manifest by experiencing less opening through either nostril. In the video, we learn how to stimulate the appropriate side.

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Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Nadi Shodhana has a calming effect. This is useful when trying to stimulate the parasympathetic system. In the video, this is where we can practice options for how to manipulate the diaphragm.

Dirgha Pranayama (3-Part Breath)

We start with the expansion of the belly on the inhale, which then goes to the ribs and to the collar bone. On the exhale, the pathway is reversed.

Kapalabhati (Skull-Shining Breath)

This is a more energetic breath technique that can be very helpful in increasing energy and as a preparation for the asana practice. The exhalation is emphasized here, which strengthens the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle).

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)

Bhastrika is also an energizing breath practice; however, both the inhale and the exhale are emphasized.

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These pranayama techniques are powerful tools that can facilitate greater connection with the distribution of energy—in an asana practice or off the mat, during our other daily activities. In times of stress, we can shift into the parasympathetic, and if we require more energy, we can rely on practices like Kapalabhati or Bhastrika. Even though it is easy to become complacent about how we experience our energy or breathing patterns, we actually have the power to transform our experiences by simply incorporating these practices into our daily lives. 

Matt’s Spring registration for his 200 and 300 Hr. Teacher  Training programs begins on June 1. Pranayama, connected to both anatomy and philosophy, enriches both our own understanding and the experiences of our students.  This is the Chromatic way. Click here for more information about these life-changing teacher training programs.

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Article by Trish Curling

Videos Extracted From: Breath Of Fire Immersion and Move Breathe Release Immersion

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