Yoga, Yoga Information, Yoga India


Breathing is life. The ancient yogis in India knew the intimate connection between breath and mind. For example, when your mind is angry, watch your breathing. It will be disturbed. And similarly, if you hold your breath for long, your mind will get agitated. The yogis were trying to get some degree of control over the mind. By controlling the breath, they were indirectly able to influence the mind. Breathing is an automatic process controlled by the autonomic nervous system. We do not have any conscious control over it. The science of bio-energy including the breathing movements is the practical yoga par excellence. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that one should practice Yoga to purify himself.

Pranayama, or control or regulation of the life force is the fourth step in the Ashtanga yoga system of Patanjali. The control of the breath leads to the control of the life force or prana. The ancient yogis developed many breathing techniques to maximize the benefits of prana. The word "Pranayama" is made up of two words, Prana and Yama. Here Prana means the capacity to keep body alive by air i.e breath and Ayama means expansion, stretching or extension and control of breath. Thus Pranayama means the art of controlling breath. Pranayama is used in yoga to clear and cleanse the body and mind. It is also used in preparation for meditation, asanas, postures and focussing of the mind. Pranayama create alertness, heat on both physical and subtle levels, and arouse body, mind and spirit or kundalini power. The purpose of Pranayama is to make the respiratory system function at its best. Pranayam is not so complex as it is thought to be. The ancient Sanskrit texts state that Pranayam properly done can cure all diseases, but wrongly done will only invite the same diseases. Therefore we must take extreme caution before practicing and learn it under the supervision of an experienced teacher. If you feel any kind of discomfort or symptom such as dizziness or nausea arising as you practice breathing, then lie down and relax in Savasana or the Child Pose for a few recovery breaths. If discomfort persists, do not continue your practice until you get advice regarding your symptoms.

Before doing Pranayama, one must first learn the sectional breathing. We breathe through three parts of the chest mainly, upper, middle and lower as well as the abdomen. We must first learn how to breathe through each part individually before we can breathe through all of them. Sectional breathing helps to increase the lung capacity by encouraging fuller breathing into the lungs. It has a deeply calm effect on body and mind. This technique is used as an introduction to the full Yogic breath. Simple breathing techniques can be used at the start of a session to calm and focus the mind and body. The practice of Pranayama is highly recommended before relaxation and meditation or at the end of the session.

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Types of Pranayama

The different types of Pranayama are the Bhastrika Pranayam, Anuloma / Viloma, Kapalbhati, Bhramri, Sitlee, Sitkari, Ujjayi, Vedhene Bandh. The main Pranayama is the Bhastrika Pranayama.

1. Bhastrika Pranayama
The word ‘Bhastrika’ is a Sanskrit word which means leather bellow, which was used in the olden times to blow furnaces, where air is forcibly drawn in and out. This pranayama increases the fire in the body. In this type of pranayama, the diaphragm movement is used for the internal fire creating physical, Pranic and psychic heat. Bhastrika constitutes as a very powerful pranayam. Basically, a combination of Kapalbhati and Ujjaye Pranayam makes one Bhastrika. One who starts practice of Kapalbhati or Ujjaye finds it very easy to do the Bhastrika.

Steps in Bhastrika Pranayama
1). Firstly, sit in Padmasana, Siddhasana or Sukhasana with tends on knees and eyes closed. These postures lock the body into a stable position and permit freedom of abdominal movement. Also these postures are firm and strong which is a strong requirement for this pranayama in which rapid breathing is required.

2) Secondly, breathe in vigorously but deeply through both the nostrils and then breath out or exhale forcefully through both the nostrils. One such vigorous, forceful inhalation and exhalation with out any strain constitute one cycle of Bhastrika. It should be remembered that the inhalation should be with the same and uniform force and vigour. Please ensure that both nostrils are clear and blowing freely. The intensity or frequency of breathing should be very mild, without any undue force. It should be like an amplified form of normal breathing.

2. Ujjayi Breath
The Ujjayi technique is a very soothing technique which can be applied to sectional breathing or used while holding Yoga postures. This type of breathing helps to increase the lung capacity (and more oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream), energy levels, and also achieves a state of calmness and mental clarity. In this technique, partially close the back of your throat, which cover the windpipe, so that as you inhale and exhale through your nose, the air passes through a narrower air passage in your throat, creating the sound made by your breathing while you are in a state of deep sleep. This sound can be likened to the whispering of the letters “hhhhh” expressed on inhalation and exhalation.

3. Bhramri
Bhramri is known as the bee breath. Bhramri helps to clear and strengthen the respiratory system and improve vocal resonance. It has a calming effect on the body that uplifts the spirit, and clears and invigorates the mind. In this pranayama, keep your lips gently closed throughout, inhale deeply, then hum as you exhale, extending the exhalation as long as possible. Use your abdominal muscles to control the evenness of your breath on exhalation. Repeat this once more. If you wish to stimulate your lung cells to further invigorate the vocal resonance and your body, tap your chest with your fists or fingertips as you hum on the out breath.

4. Sitali and Sitkari
Sitali and Sitkari are the two breathing techniques which have a cooling effect on the body. This technique is very useful during the hot months of the year. They also calm the nervous system. Sitali, particularly, can alleviate nausea and the symptoms of asthma.

In Sitali on inhalation, curl your tongue so that the sides fold up, forming a tube, with your tongue protruding from you lips. Raise your chin as you inhale through your tongue (like a straw), feeling the cool air over the tongue. On exhalation, slightly lower your chin, place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, close your lips, and exhale through your nose.

In Sitkari part your jaw slightly, so that your upper and lower teeth are a small distance apart. Your tongue rests at the base of your mouth, and the corners of your mouth are opened out as if in a wide smile. Inhale and exhale through your teeth, with the air passing over your tongue. The air should feel cool as it moves over the surface of your tongue during inhalation.

5. Anuloma Viloma
Anuloma means with the natural order and Viloma means going against the order. This technique helps to balance and harmonize the functioning of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It has a soothing effect on the nervous system and calms the mind. Because exhalations are longer than inhalation, it encourages the removal of state air and toxins.

In this type of pranayama, raise your right hand, curling your forefinger and middle finger into your palm, leaving thumb, fourth finger, and little finger extended. Then place your thumb on the right side of your nose and apply gentle pressure just under the bone, where the fleshy part of the nose begins. Inhale through the left nostril then release and exhale through both nostrils. Then, use your fourth finger, apply pressure to the left nostril, inhaling through the right and release and exhale through both nostrils.



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