Caffeine might be your favorite way to start the day, but too much can lead to sleepless nights, anxiety, anger, and a case of the jitters.
by Danielle Mika Nagel
One of my mantras is “no coffee no prana!” However, I have to limit my intake of caffeine because my dominant dosha is Vata. Through yoga and meditation, I’ve become more aware of my body’s reaction to caffeine. I can still enjoy my morning Americano, but I can’t have more than that. When I need an energy boost without the negative side effects, I turn to specific pranayama and asanas. The next time you’re tempted to pour that second or third cup of coffee, try these exercises, in order, instead.
Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)
This is a diaphragmatic breathing technique to stimulate energy and is best practiced, at least initially, with a certified teacher. Avoid this breathing exercise if you are heavily menstruating, pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have heart or any abdominal issues.
Find a comfortable seat where your spine is long and erect. Root your sitting bones down into your chair or mat and elongate the sides of your waist, from hips to armpits. Lift the chest and soften your shoulders back and down. Grow taller through to the crown of your head as you relax your jaw. There is a tendency, especially during this breathing exercise, to start clenching your teeth. Be aware of your body.
Find a point to gaze at, towards the extension of your nose and keep your gaze softly there. One of the purposes of breathing exercises is to support the transition from activity to meditation, so keeping your gaze steady is helpful. Wherever your eyes are wandering to, that is where your attention is moving.
Relax your hands, palms down on your thighs, and take a few breaths just to settle into your seat and the present moment.
Begin with a cleansing breath. Take a deep inhalation through your nose (about 4 seconds) and exhale out your mouth for about 4 to 6 seconds.
Take another deep inhalation through your nose and begin short exhales (about 1 second) also through the nose. Just focus on the exhalations and your inhalations will happen naturally. For your first round, take 15 short exhalations through your nose. Your abdominal muscles will contract with each exhalation. Keep your shoulders level and soft. There is no need for tension anywhere else besides the abdominals.
Once you’ve completed your 15 short exhalations, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale completely out your mouth. Take a few more “recovery” breaths, breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. If at any point you feel dizziness, let go of Kapalabhati breathing and breathe naturally.
If you’re feeling comfortable, try another round. Try to work your way up to 30 short exhalations. Take about three rounds with recovering breaths in between. Before moving back into activity, rest for a minute and notice the difference in your energy levels.
About the Author
Danielle Mika Nagel is an international Vinyasa Yoga and Meditation Teacher based in Vancouver, BC. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as E-RYT 500 and completed her initial Teacher Training under the guidance of certified teachers in the styles of Ashtanga, Anusara, and Iyengar.