Have you ever met someone who was just so full of life, it felt like they were radiating? Someone that had a perceivable magnetism, and therefore seemed to be attracting all the good into their field… A freakin’ gravitational force…!?
The Chinese call it chi, the Polynesians mana, the Amerindians orenda, and the ancient Germans od. In Sanskrit, the yogis call it prana. All those words refer to the same thing: “life force” or “vital principle” or more commonly known as “energy”.
We are all made of prana, but we hold a different amount depending of our life habits and the amount of prana-based practices we do — how we cultivate it. The stronger our charge, the more health and vitality we radiate. It manifests in the outer world through one’s charisma, light, leadership, dynamism, enthusiasm, ability to take action and share the stoke.
Who doesn’t want to embody all those qualities?
Finding ways to increase, refine and direct our own vital energy is what allows us to shape our lives with more authority and purpose, and excel in every aspect of it.
The word Prāṇāyāma derives from the Sanskrit words prāṇa and ayāma, translating as “life force” and “expansion” respectively.
Pranayama therefore means “expansion of your life force” and is being done through the control or training of the breath.
We normally breathe automatically —we don’t have to think about it for it to happen — but we can also decide to take control of it and that gives us the opportunity to impact our levels of vitality (oxygenize/ detoxify the body, move energy) and influence our mental state (in terms of: calm, levels of courage, learning capacity, creativity, ability to generate new ideas.). The breath is the easiest gateway to access, explore & rewire our subconscious.
Our body reflects our past. The breath (prana) connects us to the present. The mind (chitta) is what projects us in the future. It all moves together but the body, and then the breath, from being denser and more tangible, are easier to manipulate.
The practice of yoga integrates it together: we use the movement of the body (expansion, contraction, fold, rhythm) to shape the breath, the control of the breath to cultivate presence of the mind, a clear and spacious mind to drop into what exists beyond physicality — which we call, perhaps, spirituality.
However, pranayama can also be practiced by it’s own, whether you have 3 or 30 minutes. It can obviously be practiced on your mat, but also it in the line-up when waiting for the next waves, before a stressful conversation, or even on the commute to work.
But what I find the most impassioning about deepening our relationship with the breath and increasing our lung capacity, is how it intersects with various other disciplines.
In surfing, it first allows you to gain control over your mind in challenging waves. Secondly, in wipeouts and hold-downs, you can stay underwater peacefully for more time and stay away from “panic-mode”.
In scuba diving, reducing your air consumption with a slower breath will allow a longer dive time.
In freediving, a bigger lung capacity will give you more time underwater. Thirty seconds is pretty standard, but a trained person can stay up to six minutes!
In sex, connecting with your breath will get you out of your head and the in-breath will send the energy straight up your spine and can lead to very powerful orgasms.
In stressful, fearful or exciting situation, observe for a second what your breathing is doing. It has most likely become shorter, shallower, quicker… How we breathe reflects how we think, or what we think will affect our breath. We can learn to master it.
So let’s get into business with a few techniques!
1) Savitri Pranayama : Ultimate balance of nervous system
Savitri is my go-to pranayama practice. It it can be done anytime, anywhere, you can even synchronize it with your footsteps while walking, but it’s better performed in a upright sitting position. It is a super accessible technique and the one thing I would recommend doing if you only get five minutes to yourself and have no desire to move your body.
Count slowly and breath deeply!
- Inhale for a 8-count (8 seconds)
- Hold in for a 4-count (4 seconds)
- Exhale for a 8-count (8 seconds)
- Hold out for a 4-count (4 seconds)
Twenty minutes of practice in the (8:4:8:4) rhythm can yield the deep relaxation and rejuvenating effects of several hours sleep.
It has the capacity to calm and rebalance the nervous system, as well as relieve stress and to strengthen the cardiovascular system.
*If ever this ratio is to hard at the beginning, you can start with a (6:3:6:3) ratio. On the other end, you can eventually try to bring it up to (10:5:10:5).
2) Waterman technic : Increase Empty Lungs Retention Capacity
Surfing inevitably involves spending time underwater holding ones breath. Truth is, even if it is a nasty wipeout, it is quite unusual to be held under for more than 10 seconds, but the immersion is often sudden, unexpected, and with a number of variables that are unknown (duration, depth, possible impact with the sea floor etc…) which creates a lot of discomfort.
Increasing our capacity to hold your breath on empty lungs becomes a very helpful skill. One thing that is interesting to understand is that your urge to breathe is caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and not a low level of oxygen. Knowing this, and accepting that you’re not going to die if you hold your breath for more than a minute, is half the battle.
Here world champion John John Florence introduce us to his technique:
3) Kapalabahti (Breath of Fire) – Energize your Body and Shine bright!
What are the 3 best reasons to practice the breath of fire?
1- Invigoration: It stimulates the solar plexus to generate heat and release a large dose of energy throughout the body. Who needs coffee as a mid-day pick me up?
2- Detoxify: It purifies your blood with oxygen and makes it circulate through your body in a fast and effective manner which is very helpful in removing toxins and buildup of other substances. You know who HATES oxygen? Cancer cells!
3- Strengthening: Breath of Fire exercises the muscles in the abdomen big time, and also strengthens the magnetic field of the body, aka physical aura, and literally makes you radiate good vibes.