If you’re stressed or anxious, mindfulness meditation can help relax the nervous system and restore feelings of calm and ease. However, practicing pranayama (or breath control) can also have profound and positive effects on both your mental and physical health.
Specifically, sama vrtti pranayama—also known as equal parts breathing—helps bring back equanimity to your breath, support respiratory health, and help you feel calmer and more grounded. As its name suggests, its objective is to balance your inhalations with your exhalations. Below is a quick guide on how to practice equal parts breathing.
Sit comfortably on your yoga mat or chair. Lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders, and close your eyes. Begin by breathing in naturally and breathing out naturally, paying attention to the natural rhythm and cadence of your breath. Observe how your belly and chest rise when you breathe in, and fall when you breathe out. When you are ready to begin your practice, exhale deeply and empty yourself of breath.
On your next inhalation, breathe in for 4 counts. You may count 1 to 4. Don’t rush your counting, but you don’t have to be too slow either. Count at a pace that feels natural. Feel yourself fill up with air. On your fourth count, exhale and breathe out for 4 counts. Once again, count to 4 and empty yourself of air. Inhale, and continue to repeat this same counting for each cycle of breath.
You can also take one hand to your belly and one hand to your chest. This provides you with physical feedback and allows you to connect more deeply with your body. As you count, notice the natural ebb and flow of your breath, rising and falling in your belly and your chest. See if you can breathe in and breathe out just a bit deeper every time.
You can keep a timer with you, and practice this exercise for 3 to 5 minutes. When you feel that your breathwork is complete, open your eyes and return to natural rhythm of breath.