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Pranayama is the fourth limb of Ashtanga yoga, and is also called as the “Heart of Yoga.” I call it as the “Science of Breathing.” Pranayama comes from two words, prana and ayama. Prana stands for the vital energy which is present within each one of us. In gross terms, it can be termed as the breath. Ayama stands for stretching, extending, regulating or directing.

Thus it can be said, pranayama stands for direction, control or regulation of the breath. It is important to mention here that a normal human being just uses about 10 percent of his lung capacity, as a result of which, the cells in the body are not able to get sufficient quantity of oxygen; this results in various diseases including heart problems, cancer, diabetes and many others. Pranayama teaches us to how to use our lungs to the optimum capacity; as a result of which, the cells in our body are able to get sufficient quantity of oxygen.

Benefits of Pranayama Yoga

Pranayama is the key to Good Health and Peace of Mind. It is beneficial in the treatment of various diseases including heart problems, high blood pressure, blockages in the arteries, cancer, diabetes, obesity, asthma, skin disorders, constipation, acidity, tomours, thyroid disorders, nerve disorders, indigestion, bipolar disorders and depression.

Pranayama is a powerful healing tool, and a great stress buster. No matter how stressed you might have been, you shall feel greatly relieved after practicing pranayama. Pranayama rejuvenates the cells of our body, as a result of which, the immunity system of our body rises significantly. As you practice pranayama you shall see for yourself that you become internally strong and healthy; you will feel elated, and shall be able to enjoy life to the fullest.

If you’re a beginner, the first thing I’d like you to do is to follow your breath. You can keep your one hand over your abdomen, so that you can feel the expansion and contraction of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Remember, as you inhale, your abdomen should expand; and as you exhale, your abdomen should contract.

Though there are about 10 Pranayamas; some of the pranayamas which are easy, and can easily be practiced by beginners are as follows:

1. Sukha pranayama:

This is the easiest of all the pranayamas. This is also called as deep abdominal breathing. Sukha pranayama is a great stress buster and a powerful mental tonic. It’s a great pranayama for relieving stress, fear, worry, anxiety and depression.

Technique: Sit down comfortably in a cross-legged posture, with your back straight, and chin parallel to the ground. Gently close your eyes now. All you need to do here is to concentrate on your breath and the movement your abdomen; breathe-in to the count of 5, and breathe-out to the count of 5. Keep your one hand over your abdomen so that you can feel the expansion and contraction as you inhale and exhale. As you breathe-in, your abdomen slowly expands and as you breathe-out, your abdomen contracts.

After doing a couple of rounds of deep abdominal breathing; you can use an affirmation with each inhalation and exhalation. Each time you breathe-in, feel your abdomen expanding and mentally repeat, “I am full of joy and peace;” similarly, each time you breathe-out, feel your abdomen contracting and again mentally repeat, “I am full of joy and peace.” If your mind wanders here and there, get it back to the breath.

Do this pranayama for about 3 to 5 minutes; after doing a couple of rounds of this pranayama, you shall feel quite peaceful and elated.

2. Anuloma Viloma pranayama:

This is also called as the Alternate Nostril Breathing. Anuloma Viloma is beneficial in the treatment of various diseases including heart problems, high blood pressure, blockages in the arteries, insomnia, panic disorders, and depression.

Technique: Sit in a cross-legged posture with your back straight and chin parallel to the ground; gently close your eyes now. Make an Apana mudra with your right hand (join the tip of the middle finger, ring finger, and the thumb together; the other two fingers should be pointed outwards). Now close your right nostril with the help of your thumb, and exhale out all your breath from the left nostril; your abdomen should sink all the way in. This is the starting position of this pranayama.

Inhale from the left nostril to the count of 4; your abdomen expands outwards. Next, close your left nostril with the help of the ring finger and middle finger, and exhale through the right nostril to the count of 8; your abdomen contracts as you exhale. Now inhale from the right nostril to the count of 4 (your abdomen expands); close your right nostril with the thumb, and exhale through the left nostril to the count of 8 (your abdomen contracts). This completes your one round of Anuloma Viloma pranayama. Do at least 15 to 20 rounds of Anuloma Viloma pranayama.

3. Kapalabhati Pranayama

It is important to know how to go for cleansing breath in order to keep good health for your body. You can try to go for Kapalabhati which is a type of breathing technique and it helps in clearing all blockages of in the chest. In Kapalabhati, the breathing type is short and quick and it helps a lot in providing good amount of oxygen from the body.  The term, “Kapala” means “skull” and “bhati” means “lightness.” It is good for you when you feel very foggy or heavy in your head. If you are someone who feels numb around the eyes or even suffering from sinuses then Kapalabhati would help you a lot to get rid of these problem. You can feel the positive effect of this breathing in a very short duration of time. It is important that you perform this type of pranayama after getting all the right training from an expert. This would only help you to get the right effect of your pranayama. It is also very important not to overstress your body because if you do so then you would not be able to get the right and effective results from your pranayama.

Know the right techniques

You need to know the right technique how to perform Kapalabhati. You should also know that time and place too plays a very important role while performing this type of pranayama. You should not try to create any sort of tension in your breath as it would have an adverse effect on your health. You should also remember that you might feel dizzy while performing this pranayama but in the course of time you would be able to get rid of it and you would be able to get it done quite effectively and that too without any problem. There are some precautions that you need to follow while practicing Kapalabhati. You have to ensure that you do not try to breath rapidly. You need to inhale and that too by pulling your abdomen and this should be done for at least 20 times to get the best results.

4. Ujjayi Pranayama:

Ujjayi Pranayama is a special breathing technique. It is a method to get unlimited access to Prana (=universal energy). Performing it, heat may be your first sensation. It’s said, that by this breathing, Yogis can create enough heat to melt snow around them. But this technique also gives you inner energy to master impossible seeming physical efforts. Doing demanding Yoga positions can bee just seen as an result of an huge amount of muscular stamina. But the muscular system gets it s energy for this stamina from Prana and Ujjayi Pranayama gives this Prana to them.

Ujjayi breathing means breathing slowly through your nostrils – about 4 to 5 heartbeats in and about 4 to 5 heartbeats out. Doing this you create a soft and gentle sound in your throat, just like the waves of an inner ocean floating to the coast You hear the same sound inhaling and exhaling. Just listen to this rhythm. You can ride on it gently through your entire practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

The Ujjayi Pranayama will become a guide to tell you about the quality of your practice. A too forceful breathing may point you to a too forceful practice – . a too sleepy and unfocused to an too sleepy and unfocused practice. Keeping the right balance between hard and soft, fast and slow means going in moving meditation.

5. Sheetali Pranayama

There are different forms of pranayama that you can practice o get rid of any health problems on your life. It is important to know and have clear understanding of the different pranayamas that are there for you. It is also quite important to get it practiced from an expert who can give you some important tips on how to do it in the right way. Shitali is a form of pranayama that literally means cooling. This form of pranayama can be practiced anywhere and that too any point of your time. This is why it is flexible for all and you can derive many benefits by practicing in the right way. You have to know the right steps that are needed to perform Shitali.

Know the important steps

Let us have a look at the important steps that you need to follow in order to get the maximum benefits for your body. First you need to sit in a very comfortable position. The next step that you need to take is to stick your tongue out and you should ensure that you try to do it about an inch from your body. It should be done like a funnel tube. Now try to suck in air through the tunnel that you have made with your tongue. You have to make sure that you inhale the air in such a way that you let the air to flow all over your tongue and that too from your tip to your base. You would feel very cold and then try to inhale fully and then close your mouth and then exhale slowly through your nose. Now you need to increase the frequency gradually and you can perform it to about 10 seconds. You would have lots of positive effects on your body by performing Shitali. It helps in relieving the body temperature and also helps in the proper function of your nervous system. It helps you to improve your digestive system as well.

6. Surya Bhedana:

Breathing Exercise (Pranayama) – Surya means sun, referring to the right nostril which is the path of the Pingala Nadi. When you inhale solely through this nostril, heat is created in the body and the impurities that blocks the flow of Prana are dispelled. You may start your practice by repeating Surya Bhedana ten times and slowly build up a to forty.

This refers to the Breathing Exercise in which you inhale through the right nostril and exhale through the left, holding the inhaled breath as long as possible before exhaling. Beginners should expect to use their fingers in order to close either nostril, though you may eventually develop an ability to do this without using the fingers. You may close your nostrils in any way you choose to; but the traditional technique which has been the standard practice is as follows: Press the index and middle finger of the right hand against the palm of that hand Use the thumb to close the right nostril and the ring and little fingers to close the left nostril. If your are left handed, you may reverse this procedure. When both nostrils are open, the fingers rest on the bridge of the nose.

7. Sitkari Pranayama:

Breathing Exercise (Pranayama) – Sitkari (Teeth Hissing) Sitkari pertains to the sound made by drawing air in through the front teeth-either tightly closed or slightly opened-with the tongue tip regulating the air pressure and sound. This technique pertains only to inhaling, except that exhaling normally takes place through both nostrils, after a usual full pause.

Sitkari (Teeth Hissing) The sides of the tongue is pressed against the teeth, lining the sides of the mouth, if they are closed tightly, or expanding between the upper and lower; sets, if the jaw is opened slightly. The sound, a kind of reversed hissing, like that made when one suddenly touches ice or a hot object or feels a draft of hot or frigid air, should be regulated so as to be smooth and to sound pleasant. The experience has been described as “sipping air.” This technique usually cools the mouth and may have both a cooling and a relaxing effect upon the whole body. Lips should close at the end of inhalation, preparatory to holding the full pause with chin lock. Closure of the lips ends the hissing sound, After retaining the breath for as long as you are able, slowly exhale through both nostrils. Repeat five to ten times.

8. Bhastrika Pranayama:

In Sanskrit Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika.

Method of Practice: Sit on Padmasana. Keep the body, neck and head erect. Close the mouth. Next, inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith. Constantly dilate and contract. When you practise this Pranayama a hissing sound is produced. The practitioner should start with rapid expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required number of expulsions, say ten for a round, is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation is done very slowly. The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika. Rest a while after one round is over by taking a few normal breaths. This will give you relief and make you fit for starting the second round. Do three rounds daily in the morning. You can do another three rounds in the evening also. Busy people who find it difficult to do three rounds of Bhastrika can do one round at least. This also will keep them quite fit.

Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama:

1. Relieves inflammation of the throat 2. Increases gastric fire 3. Removes diseases of the nose and chest and eradicates asthma etc. 4. It gives good appetite. 5. It breaks and dissolve the tumors. 6. It enables one to know the Kundalini. 7. It removes all diseases which arise from excess of wind, bile and phlegm. 8. It gives warmth to the body. 9. Purifies the Nadis considerably 10. Very much useful in Muscular Dystrophy and Oxygen deficiency disorders. 11. This Pranayama brings about a proper balance of the three Doshas i.e. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and maintains their balance. Blood is purified and the body gets rid of foreign objects and toxins.

9. Bhramari Pranayama:

Inhale through both nostrils, taking a slow deep breath in. Exhale through both nostrils using the throat to make a soft “eeee” sound, like the buzzing of a bee. Do 5-10 rounds, making the buzzing bee noise louder as you progress, but do not strain. Variation: Block off the right nostril with the thumb using visnu mudra (as in nadi sodhna pranayama) and inhale through the left nostril using Ujjayi pranayama. Exhale through the left nostril using the throat to make a soft “eeee” sound, like the buzzing of a bee. Block off the left nostril and repeat on other side, practicing for 5-10 rounds.

The adjective bhramarin can also mean “sweet as honey” in Sanskrit or “that which produces ecstasy”. Bhramari has an immediate relaxing effect on the brain. If it is practised some minutes every day it can reduce mental tension and lower high blood pressure.

Method for Bhramari Pranayama:

Sit down in Padmasana, Siddhasana or Vajrasana. Now inhale and exhale breaths rapidly through both the nostrils with a buzzing sound that is similar to the buzzing of bumble bee (Nasal snoring is more difficult.). Keep on doing this exercise till you sweat profusely. End the exercise with inhaling the breath through nostrils as deeply as possible and hold it as long as you can. Then exhale through both the nostrils. As you increase the speed of inhalation and exhalation of breath, In the beginning, heat of the body is increased as the circulation of blood is quickened. In the end the body-heat is decreased by perspiration and you will have amusing and joyful experience.

10. Murcha Pranayama (Swooning)

This exercise is recommended only for those already well advanced in the use of other breathing techniques. Its maximum benefit comes from repeated practice under controlled conditions wherein the practitioner knows what to expect. It involves a prolonged full pause held with a chin lock, until you experience the approach of fainting. Beginners may, indeed, faint. But experts remain seated upright, normally in the Lotus Posture, and attain a restful, pleasant suspension of consciousness. One breathes through both nostrils and may require several rounds and full pauses to attain his goal. If the approaching fainting appears to be leading to a collapse of posture, one may resist it until he regains physical self-control. When successful, one enjoys a prolonged, relaxed, euphorious, semiconscious swoon.

11. Plavini Pranyama (Floating)

Plavini has originated from the Sanskrit word PLU that means to float. Thus Plavini means the one that causes to float. The student actually drinks air like water slowly and sends it to the stomach. The stomach gets bloated a bit. If you tap the stomach when it is filled with air, you will get a peculiar tympanic (air) sound. In the beginning practice this Padmasana, Siddhasana or Vajrasana. With practice you can perform it in standing or lying posture as well.

Plavini is not so much a breathing technique for getting air into the lungs as an air-swallowing technique for getting air into the belly. By both swallowing air until the stomach is bloated, when it sounds something like a drum if tapped, and keeping the lungs almost fully inflated, one can float in water for an indefinite time if otherwise undisturbed. By retaining a prolonged full pause and exhaling and inhaling very slowly, one is able, with the aid of an air-filled stomach, to remain afloat with comfort. This method may be combined with mineral baths, hot baths or other bathing techniques designed for relaxing, and with various postures, such as the Fish Posture, which can be performed easily in water. However, plavini, like other breathing exercises, may also be practiced in a normal seated position. Whether the relaxation which comes from this exercise seems worth while is something you should judge for yourself. Those suffering from stomach gas pains should avoid this method, unless they also master ways for expelling air through the esophagus (by belching or eructation) or anus (after learning from posture exercises which most effectively achieve this end as needed.

Note – The Plavini Pranayama is not recommended for everyone. it 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.

The most important points to be kept in mind while doing this pranayama are as follows: 1. Each time you inhale the abdomen should expand; and each time you exhale the abdomen should contract. 2. The ratio between inhalation and exhalation should always be 1:2; meaning thereby, each time you should inhale to the count of 4, and exhale to the count of 8. Keep in mind, if you don’t follow the correct ratio, you shall not be able to obtain any fruitful results.

Remember, pranayama is a great science; and it’s very important for you to do it correctly and regularly.

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