Very simple, straight-forward pranayama exercise that can be done just about anywhere: Sit with your back straight and make sure you are comfortable. If you are a practicing yogi and can sit cross-legged on the floor without support, this is the sitting position you should begin with. If you cannot sit upright without support, find a comfortable chair for this exercise. You should be upright in pranayama practices for two reasons: you are moving subtle energy through the chakra system which corresponds to your spinal column, and you don't want to fall asleep! Spend the first few minutes making sure you are comfortable - I mean really comfortable, because if you are not you will be defeated! Make sure your hips are relaxed. If you are cross-legged on the floor you may need a cushion or rolled blanket under your sit-bones. This will aid the pelvis in tilting forward and take the tension out of the hip-flexors. If you are seated in a chair, you may need a cushion, low stool or big book under your feet if you have short legs! Take the time to get your sitting position correct from the get-go.
Once you feel you are upright but relaxed, close your eyes and let your chin drop slightly toward your chest. Bring your focus to your belly. Consciously relax your belly - just let it go. We all tend to suck our bellies in most of the day, so now we are practicing letting them go. It's harder than you think! I don't recommend tight t-shirts for this exercise - big and baggy is better! Let your breath guide you in relaxing the belly. With each inhalation let the belly rise - not the chest, but the belly. With each exhalation, let the belly collapse. The breath is soft and quiet, not at all forced. You may notice that you are beginning to elongate the breath a little and that is okay, but keep your focus on the belly. If you are brand-new to pranayama, this will be your practice: learning to sit upright but relaxed and focusing on letting go of all that tension in the belly. Practice it for 5 minutes each day until you get really good at it. You will notice at first that you keep sucking in the belly and have to remind yourself to let it go. That is okay- that is the practice. You will know you are ready to move on when you realize you no longer need to remind yourself to relax the belly. It may be two days or two months. It doesn't matter. What you are doing is tuning in to your body and using your breath to to release tension and truly relax. This is Pranayama 101.