As we delve a little deeper into our yogic practices, we come across Sanskrit words. Sanskrit is an ancient language from India. Much of the ancient authoritative texts on yoga are written in this language. English translations for the Sanskrit words will be provided.
Pranayama or the yogic art of breathing is an important part of any yoga or meditation practice. Prana can be translated as “life force” or “breath”. Ayama means to draw out, prolong, or expand. Pranayama is the practice of expanding your breath and by connection, your life force. Pranayama practices can help reduce stress, bringing calm to the practitioner.
In this blog, we will focus on sama-vritti or equal breathing pranayama. Sama comes from the Sanskrit word for “equal” or “balanced” while vritti means fluctuation. So Sama-vritti is the practice of equal breath.
Sanskrit words can have multiple meanings. Vritti can also refer to the fluctuations of the mind, and sama-vritti therefore can be viewed as meaning to help produce a soothing, calming, and centering practice.
In this technique, we make the in-breath the same length as the out-breath. Take in a big breath in and exhale an equally big breath out. See if you can make the inhaling breath equal to the length of the exhaling breath. How long should the breath be? As long as is comfortable for you. To find out what breath length is best for you, try inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for three seconds. Increase the length of your breath to five seconds. Next, try increasing to seven seconds for both for your inhale and exhale. When you feel the least bit anxious or uneasy, back off the length of your breath. Your breath should always be full, and not stressful.
When you find your optimal breath length, practice breathing using sama-vritti for about five minutes. Bring this technique into your meditation practice. Sit with eyes closed and simply inhale and exhale with full, even breaths. Aim for a breath that is in balance and not forced.
It is important when first learning pranayama to practice sama-vritti gently and without strain. If sama-vritti ever seems hard or brings up feelings of anxiety, try using this technique.
Relaxing for Sama-Vritti
For now, just focus on your breath. Breathe in through the nose and out through your nose. Take slow, deep breaths not worrying about how long the in breath or the out breath is. Just relax, and pay attention to the breath.
When you start to feel relaxed, try using an internal count to help even out the breaths. For example, we will use a count of four. Silently count to yourself up to four as you breathe in, and then silently count to yourself up to four as you breath out.
If this seems comfortable, you can try expanding to a count of five, of six, and so on. Only lengthen the breath if it remains comfortable. If at any time it becomes uncomfortable, reduce the length of the breath. Breathe deeply and fully.
After practicing for some time, add a short pause between your inhale and your exhale. Pause for a count of two. If your breath becomes strained in any way, reduce the count or remove the pause. Practice your breathing with a pause on the inhale and the exhale for five minutes.
While you are practicing, notice if you are filling up your lungs. Are you breathing fully and completely, or are your breaths becoming shallower as you watch or count the breath?
Sama-vritti is thought to be beneficial because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system slows the rate of the heart and relaxes the muscles – especially those involved in eating. It is sometimes called the rest and digest system.
Same-vritti helps the yogi or yogini transition into a deeper, more relaxed, and restorative state. It is said that sama-vritti breath promotes balance and evenness in the natural flow of consciousness. This enhanced level of equilibrium can help reduce agitation and anxiety. How was Sama-vritti for you? Post your responses and let me know.