(Note – The Following Types of Pranayama should only be practiced under the direct guidance of Expert Guru. Please DO NOT Practice by reading the following article, it may be harmful to your health. )
Meaning;-Pranayama is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – Prana (life force) and Ayama (control). Therefore, Pranayama would mean the control of the flow of life force. Yogic Breathing helps us understand our breathing
Pranayama in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Prana is vital energy, and ayama is control and extension of the Pranic energy “Pranayama is control of Breath”. “Prana” is Breath or vital energy in the body. On subtle levels prana represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and “ayama” means control. So Pranayama is “Control of Breath”. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.
Patanjali in his text of Yoga Sutras mentioned pranayama as means of attaining higher states of awareness; he mentions the holding of breath as important practice of reaching Samadhi. Hatha Yoga also talks about 8 types of pranayama which will make the body and mind healthy.
Five types of prana are responsible for various pranic activities in the body, they are Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana & Samana. Out of these Prana and Apana are most important. Prana is upward flowing and Apana is downward flowing. Practice of Pranayama achieves the balance in the activities of these pranas, which results in healthy body and mind.
Preparation for Pranayama
As people have attraction towards Yoga asana, similarly they have attraction to Pranayama. The process of Pranayama is concerned with the breathing, the indicator of life. And therefore, if it is done wrongly, it may do harm to the person. This fear dissuades many from taking up Pranayama. The second reason for its unpopularity is the absence of teachers who can teach it scientifically. However, it is true that if one does Pranayama unscientifically, without proper guidance, one certainly suffers. But it does not mean that it is such a difficult process, that it cannot be done by a common man. On the contrary, if it is learnt and practiced under an expert’s guidance, one learns soon and experiences the wonderful and even unimaginable benefits.
In Patanjali’s “Ashtanga Yoga”, Pranayama appears at the fourth stage. This means unless one observes Yama-Niyama and does Asanas well, he cannot reach this fourth stage. Even the Asanas discussed here are presented in their preliminary form. Therefore, for doing Pranayama, it is not enough to have done the Asanas as mentioned here. Even after learning these Asanas and having practiced them, one needs some preparation before actually taking up Pranayama. And an attempt is made to discuss that preparation. Actual Pranayama means the holding up of the process of exhaling and inhaling. And it is not possible to discuss or guide this serious aspect of Yogabhyasa in preliminary discussion. Therefore, as the preliminary exercises are discussed and which are to be done before the actual beginning of the Asanas: similarly, for Pranayama too, the preliminary exercises of breathing are designed and only this part is going to be discussed here.
Before examining the exercises of breathing it is necessary to understand the process of breathing. The breathing process chiefly involves two activities, viz., inhaling and exhaling. Of these the former is called “Puraka” and the latter “Rechaka”‘ in Yogashastra. These two activities continue non-stop right from the birth to the death of a person. The state when these two activities are made to halt is given the name “Kumbhaka” in Yoga Studies. The halt after inhaling, i.e., Puraka is called “Abhyantara Kumbhaka” and after exhaling, i.e. rechaka. It is called “Bahya Kumbhaka”. Two more types of Kumbhaka are mentioned. But instead of talking of them in detail, let us turn to the process of breathing.
Types of Pranayama
- Abdominal breathing
- Full yogic breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma)
- kapalabhati,and some of advanced pranayama’s
- Surya Bedha
Why Pranayama (or) Yogic Breathing
Effects Of Improper Breathing; – Very few people breathe correctly. Some use only the upper part of their lungs; others breathe with only the diaphragm (lower part) leaving the upper structures of the lungs inactive and partially collapsed. In those parts of the lung that are not used, slimy secretions accumulate and the tissues become devitalized. Thus a luxurious soil is prepared for the tubercle bacillus, pneumococcus and other scavenger germs. This habit of shallow breathing accounts in a good measure for the fact that one third of all deaths result from diseases of the lungs. For one individual perishing from food starvation, thousands are dying from oxygen starvation.
Effective Breathing;- Breathing problems can be corrected by yoga through the practice of Pranayama. Pranayama has various techniques that are designed for the maximum capacity utilization of the lungs – something that most of us do not do. Yoga and pranayama also help in regulating the temperature of the breath flow thereby solving a lot of problems related to breathing.
The effectiveness of breathing exercises depends upon the mental attitude during the time of practice. Each motion should be accompanied by a conscious effort to make it produce a certain result. Much more can be accomplished through mental concentration by keeping your mind on what you are doing than by performing exercises in an indifferent, aimless way. Yoga and meditation exercises specifically provide such a training.
Do not breathe through the mouth. Nature intends that outer air must reach the lungs by way of the nose whose membranes are lined with tiny hairs and mucous which serve as wonderful filters. Also the air is warmed and moistened before it reaches the lungs which is extremely important
Benefits of Pranayama (yogi’s breathing)
It helps in increasing the mental and physical powers of endurance. It is the path to deeper relaxation and meditation and is a scientific method of controlling breath. It provides complete relaxation to the nervous system. It provides relief from pain caused by the compression of nerve endings. It helps in increasing oxygen supply to the brain which in turn helps controlling the mind.
Caution; – Pranayama must be learn under your yoga teacher
1.Abdominal Breathing ;- first lying flat on the back , then keep your right hand on your abdomen and aware your breath, which should be slow and deep ,and fill up your diaphragm by drawing the air into the lowest and largest part of the lungs. Inhale aware the abdomen is rising .exhale abdomen should sink down.
2.Full yogic Breathing; – Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. ,keep your right hand on your lower abdomen and left hand on your upper abdomen .now inhaling slowly , feel the abdomen expand first , then the ribcage , and finally feel the air filling the upper chest . as you exhale, the air will leave the lower lung first , then the middle and lastly the top part .this is full yogic breathing .
3.Anuloma viloma(Alternate Nostril Breathing )
Instruction; – Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Raise the right hand and bring it into Vishnu mudra by folding down the index and middle fingers. Close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale completely through the left .now ready to begin .inhale completely through the left nostril keeping the right nostril closed. This should be done to a count of “4” for at the beginning time and slowly increased only after much time practice
Close the left nostril with the two end fingers, so that both nostrils are now shut, retains the breath for a count of “16” (4 times the count of the inhalation)
Keeping the left nostril closed, release the right nostril and exhale completely to a count of “8” (twice the count of inhalation)
With the left nostril closed, inhale through the right to a count of “4’.closed both nostril and retain the breath to a count of “16”
.keeping the right nostril closed, release the fingers from the left nostril and exhale completely for a count of “8” to complete one round .and you practice ten to fifteen rounds
If you are more advanced student ,the count of the exercise may be increased ,but always in the ratio of 1;4;2,this means that for every second that you inhale , you retain the breath for four second exhale for two second .never change the ratio..
Benefits of Anuloma Viloma;-
The lungs and entire respiratory system are cleansed and strengthen
It helps to calm the mind and making it lucid and steady, preparing it for meditation.
It is purifies the nadis and psychic system is balanced
Make it the body light and the eyes shiny.
instruction;-Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Exhale through both nostrils, contracting the middle and lower abdomen portions. Release the contractions quickly and immediately follow with another forceful exhalation. Inhale passively and effortlessly. Gradually increase the frequency to about 120 strokes/minute. After the round take a deep breath and gradually exhale.
Benefits of Kapalbhati ;-
Cleans capillaries of the remotest part of the body.
Purifies the frontal portion of the brain.
Aid in combating asthma, diabetes, and chronic bronchitis besides other nervous disorders.
Cleans the nasal passages.
Instruction; – Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect .with right hand in Vishnu mudra, close the left nostril, inhale through the right nostril, and close both nostrils
And retain the breath while applying jalandhara and moola bandhas
Hold the breath as long as is comfortable ,after which time , raise the head , release the bandhas ,and exhale slowly and silently through the left nostril .this is one round .start with 15rounds and gradually increase to 30rounds
In surya bedha, inhale through the right nostril, exhale through the left nostril
Instruction;- Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect .close the mouth and inhale through both nostril in a smooth uniform manner. partially close the glottis in order to produce a soft sobbing sound of a sweet and uniform pitch .at the end of inhalation , close both nostril with the right hand in Vishnu mudra .put on moola and Jalandhara bandhas and retain the breath . Before exhalation, unlock the bandhas, bring the head and neck into a straight position.
Exhalation is performed by sealing the right nostril with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril begins with 10 rounds, gradually increase 20 rounds
In ujjayi, inhalation is through both nostrils, exhalation is through the left nostril.
Benefits of ujjayi;-
it removes phlegm from throat , dyspepsia, dysentery ,cough
It helps to unit prana and apana in muladhara and awakens kundalini.
Instruction;- Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect .then the tip of tongue touches the upper palate. Inhale through the mouth,and exhale through both nostril ,
Benefits of Sitkari ;-it purifies the blood , quenches the thirst , cools the system
Instruction;- Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep the left hand on the left knee in Gyan Mudra. Fold the index and the middle fingers of the right hand to touch the palm. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Exhale through the left nostril and immediately inhale forcefully. Quickly open the right nostril by closing the left nostril and repeat the procedure. Keep repeating this pattern quickly gradually increasing the speed of inhalation and exhalation. Simultaneously contract and expand the abdominal muscles and slowly return to the initial speed.
Benefits of Bhastrika ;-
Very good for the respiratory system including the diaphragm and the bronchial tubes
Improves function of digestive organs..
Helps reducing excess fat in the abdominal region.
Instruction;-Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Keep both palms on the knees in Gyan Mudra. Draw out the tongue. Roll it up from the sides to form a tube like opening. Slowly suck the air through it and fill the lungs completely. After full inhalation withdraw the tongue and close the mouth. Hold the breath for some time and then slowly exhale through the nose. Repeat required number of times.
Benefits of Shitali ;-
Useful in treating fever
Good for liver, spleen, and is a good blood purifier.
Reduces tension and high blood pressure.
Cools the nervous system
Instruction; – Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose. Let the inhalation caress the throat area. Then gently plug the ears with the respective index fingers and closed eyes. Exhale slowly producing a long and continuous humming sound. Enjoy the sound and vibrations produced during these breathing techniques
Benefits of Bhramari;-
Promotes a clear voice and is recommended for singers.
Beneficial for pregnant women and in labor preparation..
Makes an impact on the mind, producing peace and joy.
Instruction; – Sit comfortably in any meditative posture. Sit erect. Be calm and close your eyes. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Now inhale slowly through the left nostril and fill your lungs. After complete inhalation, press the left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand and close the left nostril. Open the right nostril, exhale slowly. After complete exhalation, again inhale through the right nostril and fill your lungs. Close the right nostril by pressing it with the right thumb. After opening the left nostril, breathe out slowly. This process is one round of Nadi Shudhi Pranayama.
Benefits of nadi shuddhi;-
Cleanses and tones up entire nervous system.
People suffering from cough and cold benefit greatly.
Heart is strengthened.
Blocked nostrils are cleared.
Removes mental tension and worries and Induces feeling of peace
Instruction;- inhale deeply, apply bandhas and retain until the point of fainting is expected then raise head, release bandhas and slowly exhale. During kumbhaka, the mind is fixed on atman. During its practice, the mind will become senseless and you will experience joy and happiness.
Instruction; – after closing the glottis, little by little, the air is swallowed until the stomach becomes bloated. After retaining for a few minutes, the air is belched out along with the foul gases .this exercise also makes it easy to float on water.