Did your self-reflection reveal a rapid breathing pattern? Was your jaw clenched? Were you feeling anxious or irritable? Many of us are regularly in overdrive, and coming to sit for meditation at the end of a hectic day can feel like a jolting brake in a speeding car. Langhana (reducing) practices are calming, and can help you shift gears and transition smoothly into meditation. The practices are cooling and calming, designed to eliminate and reduce excess energy, thoughts, and strong emotions.
The emphasis in a langhana practice is on exhaling and holding poses—such as seated forward bends and twists—for several seconds. Less attention is paid to alignment and more to hugging the belly in toward the spine during exhalations, which lengthen progressively. Holding the breath for a moment after an exhalation can extend the calming effects, but this can be challenging. If your breath becomes strained, simply lengthen the exhalation and skip the pause.
Begin by lying on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, arms out toward your sides. Take a few minutes to connect with your breath. Exhale and gently press your lower back onto the floor. On an inhalation, invite the natural curve in your lower back to return.
Move into Windshield Wipers: With an exhalation, gently pull your belly toward the spine while lowering your knees to the right. Raise your knees to the center as you breathe in, then lower your knees to the left as you breathe out. Repeat 6 times, focusing on lengthening your exhalations. On the third and fourth rounds, pause for 2 seconds after each exhalation; on the fifth and sixth rounds, pause for 4 seconds after each exhalation. When practicing these exercises, hug your lower abdomen toward the spine, but do not clamp down or harden on the pause. To come to sitting, roll to your side and press up.
To come into Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose), bend your left knee and bring your foot against your right thigh. Inhale your arms overhead, then exhale as you fold forward gently over your right leg, hands toward your right foot. Fold forward only as far as is comfortable. Inhale, lengthen your spine, and slowly lift your chest and head. Exhale, fold over your outstretched leg again—relaxing your head—and pause for 2 seconds (figure 6). Repeat 4 times on each side. On the third and fourth rounds, pause for 4 seconds after exhaling.
Chandra Bhedana Pranayama (Lunar Breath)
Lunar Breath has a soothing, cooling effect and is linked to creativity, intuition, and receptivity. It also helps to calm the nervous system and quiet the mind for meditation.
Begin with your natural breath, then gently lengthen your exhalations and deepen your inhalations until you find a comfortable rhythm of the breath. Breathe in through the left nostril, closing the right, and out through the right, closing the left. Pause between inhalations and exhalations. Repeat 12 times before returning to your natural breath.