You're probably familiar with meditation and if you regularly practice yoga you'll also be familiar with the importance of coordinating your poses with your breath.
But in Ayurveda, before you even begin any form of exercise or meditation it's breath work or pranayama which prepares and detoxifies the body.
The word pranayama is made up of two Sanskrit words prāṇa (प्राण, breath, vital energy, life force) and āyāma (आयाम, restraining, extending, stretching). In other words, it's a way of preparing our bodies for more formal exercise.
Here are some breathing techniques I was taught many years ago. Each one has profound effects on the body by both maintaining good organ health, strengthening muscles and building stamina as well as doubling up as meditation too.
1. Kapal Bhati - this is when you breathe in through your nose filling your lungs but expel it from the body using your stomach as if your blowing your nose in quick rhythmical fashion. This technique is particularly effective at expelling stagnant air in the lungs and forcing air to infiltrate into all parts of the lungs.
2. Anulom Vilom - This breathing technique uses the thumb and the third digit to alternatively block each nostril whilst simultaneously breathing out and then in again with alternate nostrils. It might sound a little strange at first but this is a super effective technique to clear the mind and in doing so focus on the expulsion of toxins from the body.
3. Reciting AUM on the exhale - AUM is considered to be the most sacred of sounds, it embodies the whole universe representing mind, body & spirit. I was taught that this is the sound of all beings, all non-beings and space in between in other words it's the sound of the universe. The best way to recite this is to imagine filling your lungs up expanding your belly out on the inhale and then saying the word AUM slowly but loudly on the exhale. When exhaling imagine the air is leaving your body starting from the stomach and ending in the mouth.
Try doing just a minute of each every day and build it up slowly. I honestly would challenge anyone who doesn't feed invigorated after doing these. BTW you'll need a packet of tissues when performing Kapal Bhati as it really does expel any mucus build up in your nose! Think of it as a cleanse for the nose!