You might have heard of different pranayama techniques but have you ever heard or thought of straw pranayama or breathing through the straws or spacers? Well it might not be one of the typical yogic pranayama techniques but this is a concept which can be very useful for the ones who have otherwise gained or exercised little control over their breathing.
As laid down by the codifier of Yoga Sutras, rishi Patanjali , of the eight rungs of Yoga, pranayama is the fourth step. The sadhaka observes, controls and directs his/her breath consciously and makes it flow so as to draw maximum prana force. It is said in the yoga traditions that the mind controls the senses but the breath controls the mind.
Basically the concept is very simple, yet as we know sometimes it is the simplest things which are very effective. E.F. Schumacher, an influential economist and thinker, once said,” Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.” So the technique is to be used only after experiencing different types of pranayamas moderately.
Coming back to our topic, most people find it difficult to breathe slowly and steadily. Their breath is generally a shallow one. So there should be a method which combines the natural flow of breath but decreases the path of flow of inhalation and exhalation creating a secondary channel which is even thinner and narrower than our nostrils. The straws then act as an extension of our nostrils.
The Ingenious Device
One such device which is used commonly in our everyday lives is the simple straw which we use to drink liquids usually soft drinks and so forth. But if you think how can the concept of a modern day straw combined with pranayama, here is the technique mentioned below.
Take a couple of new straws, sit down in the correct sitting posture which is perfectly aligned and balanced which you adopt while doing the usual pranayama techniques. Put a soft clip on your nose, it could be the one which is used to grip cloths when they are spread out for drying on a wire or nylon rope in common households or it could be something else which is having less spring force so that it does not hurt your nose. Try to put some soft cloth between the nose and the clip so that it does not directly press against your nostrils thereby easing pressure.
The whole idea is to block your nose so that no path for breath exists through the nose. Then put the straw/s in your mouth and just take a few breaths comfortably without trying to exert either way. Depending on the length and the diameter of your straw if you feel that you are feeling too uncomfortable or if the breath is coming in and going out with too much effort, just cut the straw/s a little and try again. Of course there are specially made clips as well and you could also order one from our yoga products section.
Keep cutting the straw/s till you feel comfortable since you cannot alter the diameter but can only adjust the length. If you feel you have cut more than required and now the “straw effect” is missing from your breath, just use a new one, hence the reason for taking more than one straw in the beginning.
Now comes the real part, where you just breathe in and out through the straw, again here you have to be honest with yourself and ensure that no breath is coming in or going out through the sides of the mouth but only through the straw/s.
Pranayama vs Straw Pranayama
The main difference between inhaling and exhaling naturally in a deep way and using the straw/s is that with the straw/s you can continue with your normal breathing while the restricted passage will not automatically control the flow of your breath, just like a valve on top of a pressure vessel which leads to more comfortable technique. This I have termed as the straw effect, though i must say that this is not a predefined yogic term or anything.
Breathing in this way through the mouth will definitley be devoid of the natural moistening and filtering of breath which happens while breathing through the nose only. So use the technique as learning a step towards the conscious control and/in lengthening the breath, especially the exhalations. Also the technique is for regular inhalations and exhalations and strictly not to be used in pranayams like bhastrika or kapalbhati.
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