Did you know that an average person on land can survive without oxygen for about about 3 to 4 minutes? Most of us don’t care about our breathing patterns as it is always on autopilot mode – Isn’t it? However, as you read this post today you will discover the profound power of breathing and one such breathing exercise that can vastly improve your health. You will learn “What is SKY Breath Meditation” and how it can enhance your mental health by regulating the levels of stress hormones in the body.
SKY Breath Meditation – Did This Originate From The Clouds?
That was my first reaction when I first heard about SKY Breath Meditation – Is this some meditation technique that is practiced by looking at the sky (clouds). I was completely wrong and stupid.
SKY is an acronym for “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga” it is a controlled breathing practice discovered by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living. He had once revealed that the whole conception of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga came to him during a ten-day retreat near the banks of the Bhadra river during the early 1980s. Since then he has taught this breathing technique to millions of people across various countries.
It is a known fact that “the way you breathe, affects your whole body”. In this approach, you take complete control of your breath which is otherwise never in your control. The rhythmic breathing practice comprises long, medium, and short breaths that help in regulating the “prana” often translated as “life force” or “energy” to restore & maintain health. To understand this better let’s dive in to discover the steps involved in performing this unique breathing practice.
How Does SKY Breath Meditation Work?
SKY Breath Meditation originated from the Vedic texts of yogic science. It is quite different as compared to other breathing techniques. There are five parts to SKY Breath Meditation:
- Gentle Stretches (Asanas) to prepare the body & mind.
- Ujjayi Pranayama or Ocean Breath
- Bhastrika Pranayam or Bellow Breath
- Chanting of “OM”
- Sudarshan Kriya
Let’s look at each step in detail:
1. Prepare your body & mind with gentle stretches:
Any meditation or breathing exercise will be effective only if it is done with the right attitude and feeling. Hence, it is strongly recommended to initiate the practice with gentle exercises that help to prepare the body and mind for meditation.
Simple yoga poses (asanas) help to increase blood circulation in the body, relax tension in muscles, and induce a sense of calmness. You can start the practice with a neck roll, shoulder rotation, butterfly pose, cat pose, mountain pose, cradle pose, and locust pose.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama or Ocean Breath:
As your body and mind settle down, you start the practice with Ujjayi Pranayama, often referred to as an Ocean Breath. This practice helps you to focus on your breath and calm your mind. You can follow the below steps to practice Ujjayi breathing.
Steps To Practice Ujjayi Breathing
- Be comfortably seated on the floor or on a chair and make sure your back is straight, place your palm on your lap facing up or down. Bring your awareness to your throat and begin to inhale & exhale through your mouth.
- Bring your right palm in front of your mouth and as you exhale with your mouth open, feel the warm breath on your palm. It is very similar to you fogging your pair of glasses. As you exhale with your mouth open slightly whisper the sound ‘ahh’.
- Now as you inhale, maintain this slight pressure on the back of your throat. You will notice as the air moves in & out it makes a sound similar to that of ‘ocean waves’.
- Once you get comfortable doing the inhalations & exhalations with an open mouth, gently close your mouth and begin breathing through your nose. Maintain that same pressure at the back of your throat when you inhale & exhale air through your nose. You would still hear the sound that like that of ‘ocean waves’
- Place your attention on the sound and continue to breathe in and out through your nose calm your mind. If you are a beginner then do this for five minutes and thereafter gradually you can increase your time to 15-20 mins.
Check this video to see the exact demonstration of the above steps to practice Ujjayi Pranayama
3. Bhastrika Pranayama or Bellow Breath:
Bhastrika Pranayama is also referred to by yogis as ‘the yogic breath of fire’. This breathing technique generates heat in your body & energizes the mind & body. You can follow the below steps to practice Bhastrika pranayama.
Steps To Practice Bhastrika Pranayama
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Take a few deep breaths, place your awareness on the breath and calm your mind.
- To make this practice effective, it is suggested to make a fist, fold your arms and place them near your shoulders.
- As you inhale, you raise your hands straight up and open your fist. As you breathe out you bring your arms down next to the shoulders & close your fists.
- When you exhale, do it forcefully and align it with your hand movement.
- If you are a beginner you then do this for around 5 minutes and then gradually increase your time to 10-15 minutes.
Check this video to watch the exact demonstration of the above steps to practice Bhastrika Pranayama.
4. Chanting of “OM”
The sound of OM or AUM is considered to be sacred and is also referred to as the sound of the universe. It is powerful and has the same vibrational frequency that is found in all things present in nature. So chanting “OM” helps us to connect with the universe at large.
After you perform Ujjayi & Bhastrika Pranayama you chant “OM” three times. You can control your exhalations as you chant OM to feel vibrations in your body. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, use 70-80% of your breath as you chant ‘AAAA-UUUU’ and the balance 20-30% to chant ‘MMMM’
Keep in mind to chant “OM” three times with prolonged exhalations.
5. Perform Sudarshan Kriya
Now the last part of Sudarshan Kriya wherein instead of chanting OM, you would utter the words “SOHAM” rhythmically in three phases.
The first phase 20 times is long slow deep breaths, the second phase is 40 cycles of breath at a medium pace and the final phase is again 40 cycles of breath but at a faster pace.
This whole practice might take around 30-35 minutes and once you have completed you can lie down in a corpse pose for a few minutes. This would be extremely relaxing to the mind & body as the vibrations of “SOHAM” reaches all over the body.
Can I practice SKY Breath Meditation on my own?
Although I have provided a complete overview of SKY breath meditation however I would not recommend doing it on your own. It is strongly advised to seek assistance from a qualified teacher at the Art of Living foundation to master the SKY breath meditation technique.
Once you learn it from a certified teacher then feel free to practice it at home regularly to attain the following benefits.
Benefits of SKY Breath Meditation
There are numerous medically proven benefits of practicing SKY breath meditation regularly. Let me share with top five benefits of Sudarshan Kriya.
1. Helps in detoxification of cells
The cyclical breathing patterns ranging from slow to rapid helps in stimulating each and every cell in the body. The toxins that the body is unable to eradicate via the liver, kidneys, intestines tend to get accumulated in bones and in the form of fat tissues. The practice of this technique leads to deep purification of cells and removal of toxins from every cell of the body.
2. Helps in weight loss
Sudarshan Kriya generates heat in the body and thereby increases metabolism. This in turn can lead to weight loss for people suffering from obesity. As you practice this technique, you will also notice that it helps in moderating the urges/craving towards unhealthy foods. So you become more careful when it comes to eating food and can easily shirk the temptations as you walk by fast food joint.
3. Reduces the risk of cancer
This benefit is linked to the first one the detoxification process. Every person has cancer cells in the body. If a person has a strong immune system then it can destroy these cancer cells from multiplying. Detoxification of cells helps to produce antioxidants that help to combat the risk of cancer from the body.
4. Alzheimer’s can be reduced
Regular practice of meditation helps in boosting the brain’s health & thereby reducing the chances of dementia. So all baby boomers & millennials who face the risk of Alzheimer’s can prevent them through a regular practice of this technique.
5. Reduces depression & anxiety
Any form of meditation or yoga does help in relaxing your mind and calming your body. Mental health is essential when it comes to handling pressure situations or dealing with a stressful environment. People who engage themselves in any form of meditation or breathing exercises do have an edge over other people as they have trained their minds to be more present & calm.
So that was a run-through of the SKY Breath Meditation technique. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments area.
Also, if you are interested in meditation and wish to know how to establish a daily meditation practice ‘effortlessly’ then check the below link & give it a read.