Yoga - Pranayama

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What is Pranayama?

The term Pranayama has been coined from two Sanskrit words - Prana means life force and Ayama means control. Hence, in its broadest description, Prananyama would mean the control of the flow of life force. It is both the science and art of breath control and nadi purification. There are different breathing techniques that essentially work on three main things: regulation of breath, control of vital force and chanalisation of the Pranas (vital body force) in the right directions. Pranayama purifies the channels along which the life stream of ‘prana’ flows and helps to prevent and even cure a variety of physical and mental ailments. It also increases one’s overall immunity and resistance to disease.


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General cautions and contra-indications for Pranayama

1. The breathing techniques of Pranayama essentially be first learned under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

2. If you feel any kind of discomfort or symptom such as dizziness or nausea arising as you practicing breathing, 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.

3. Simple breathing techniques can be used at he start of a session to help calm and focus the mind and body. The practice of Pranayama is highly recommended before relaxation and meditation at the end or a session.

Vibhagha Pranayama or Sectional breathing This is a preparatory breathing practice for Pranayama that corrects the breathing pattern and helps to increase lung capacity by encouraging fuller breathing into the lungs. It    

has  a deeply calming effect on body and mind. It is used as an introduction to the Full Yogic Breath. There are three sections of Sectional Breathing:

This is a preparatory breathing practice for Pranayama that corrects the breathing pattern and helps to increase lung capacity by encouraging fuller breathing into the lungs. It has a deeply calming effect on body and mind. It is used as an introduction to the Full Yogic Breath. There are three sections of Sectional Breathing:


1. Abdominal Breathing or (Adhama)

Also known as Diaphragmatic Breathing, it is breathing into the lower region of the lung.
For practicing this breathing sit erect in Vajrasana with fingers on either side of your navel, with elbows resting at your sides. First exhale completely, slowly and continuously. This exhalation is known as Puraka.  Now take three breaths into focused area and feel your abdomen rising and falling beneath your hands. Stop the breath for a second in this position and then exhale. While exhaling the abdomen should be drawn inwards continuously and slowly. Before reversing the breath, stop the breath for a second and inhale. Repeat the breathing cycle smoothly.

2. Thoracic (Chest) breathing or (Madhyama)

Also called Intercostal breathing this is the breathing into the middle region of the lung.

For this breathing technique sit in Vajrasana and place your hands on each side of your rib cage. Take three breaths, feeling your rib cage expanding sideway under your hands as you inhale and relaxing as you exhale. In this breathing the air should be filled in chest not in abdomen, hence only chest should be expanded and contracted and abdomen should be controlled to avoid its bulging.

3. Clavicular breathing or (Adhya)

Known as Upper lobar breathing also it is breathing into the upper region of the lung. For practicing this breathing sit in Vajrasana and place your fingers underneath your collarbones. As you inhale, feel your upper chest rising slightly. Keep your shoulders relaxed; avoid raising or tension them. In this breathing the air is forced into the uppermost regions of the lungs thus ventilating the upper lobes.


The full Yogic breath

A full Yogic breath combines all three breathing techniques of Sectional breathing. It starts with Abdominal breathing and continued with the thoracic and clavicular breathings.

For practicing the Full Yogic Breath sit in Vajrasana with your arms at your sides and palms facing up or down. In a single inhalation, draw air into your lower abdomen, then into your rib cage and finally into the top of your chest. On exhalation, relax as the air flows out.

Benefits of Full Yogic breathing

Full Yogic Breathing is a breathing technique that forms a basis to advanced Pranayama techniques, but it has some important benefits of its own. It maximizes the intake of oxygen and expel of carbon dioxide. As it involves breathing into all the regions of lung it relaxes muscular restriction in and around the diaphragm, ribs, and chest, allowing for them breath to flow freely and naturally at all times.


Ujjayi Breath

Ujjayi breath is also known as ocean sounding breath or sounding breath because a whispering sound is produced on inhalation and exhalation. This soothing technique can be applied to Sectional Breathing or used while holding Yoga postures. It helps to increase lung capacity (as the more oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream) and energy levels and generates internal heat. It also helps to achieve a state of calmness and mental clarity.

How to do?

Sit in any comfortable position and partially close the back of your throat. Now inhale and exhale through your nose and let the air passes through a narrower air passage in your throat. Inhaling and exhaling should be long, deep and slow. As the back of throat is partially closed a sound is produced at inhalation and exhalation by contracting the muscles in the back of your throat. This sound resembles to the whispering of the letters “hhhhh” or distance rolling of the ocean.


Brahmari or The bee breath

In Sanskrit Brahmar means bee. In this Pranayama a buzzing sound is produced similar to the buzzing of bee hence the name Brahmari is given. Brahmari is an excellent breathing technique that helps to clear and strengthen the respiratory system and improve vocal resonance. It has a calming effect on the body, uplifts the spirit, and clears and invigorates the mind.

How to do?

Sit comfortably in any asana with your spine straight. Keeping your lips gently closed and ears blocked with your index finger. Inhale deeply and then exhale with producing the humming sound of a female bee from the mouth and nose. Use your abdominal muscles to help control the evenness of your breath on exhalation. Repeat this four to eight times.


Sitali and Sitakari

These are both the cooling breaths that produce a cooling effect on the body and calm the nervous system. Sitali in particular helps to alleviate nausea and the symptoms of asthma.


SITALI (tongue hissing)

Sitali means a cool breath. It is one of the cooling breaths that lower the fire energy principle called pitta that is associated with catabolic processes in the body. It is very useful to calm down the body temperature in hot weather conditions or high fevers it goes higher than normal.

How to do?                                                                                                             Sit in any comfortable position. Curl your tongue so that the sides fold up, forming a tube, with your tongue protruding from you lips while you inhale. 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.



SITKARI (Teeth hissing)

Like Sitali, Sitkari is also a breath cooling technique that removes excess heat from the body. It also cures diseases like acidity, hypertension and harmonizes the secretions of reproductive organs and all the endocrine system. It is also helpful to improve digestion, control High Blood pressure and purify the blood.

How to do?                                                                                                            Sit in any comfortable posture. Part your jaw slightly, so that your upper and lower teeth are a small distance apart and roll the tongue upward in such a way that it’s tip touches the upper palate and it’s mid part touches the lip with the corners of your mouth opened out as if in a wide smile. Now inhale 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. Retain the breath as long as possible and then exhale through both the nostrils.


Anuloma- Viloma

Anuloma-Viloma is an Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique in which you inhale through one nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the other nostril. A healthy person breathes mainly through the left nostril that is the path of the ida nadi, and then through the right nostril, the path of the Pingala nadi. But in many people, the natural rhythm of breathing is disturbed. Anuloma Viloma balances the rhythm of breathing and restores, equalizes flow of Prana in the body. It also helps to balance and harmonize the functioning of the right and left hemispheres of the brain and ensures optimum creativity and optimum logical verbal activity. It is the best technique to soothe the nervous system and calms the mind. It also encourages the removal toxins from the body.

How to do?

1. 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, to the count of four. 

2. Hold the breath by closing both the nostrils, to the count of sixteen. 

3.Then exhale through the right nostril, closing the left with the ring and little fingers, to the count of eight.

 4. Inhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed with the ring and little fingers, to the count of four.

 5. Hold the breath, closing both nostrils, to the count of sixteen.

6. Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right closed with the thumb, to the count of eight.

Kapalbhati Pranayama

Kapalbhati is one of the popularly practiced Pranayama that promises to cure various ailments over a period of time. In Sanskrit Kapal means forehead and bhati means shining or glow thus literally this breath technique brings glow to the forehead of the practitioner. Apart from bringing glow and enhancing beauty this pranayama has various other benefits. It cleanses the lungs and entire respiratory system, purifies the blood, increases the supply of oxygen to all cells, improves digestion, strengthens abdominal muscles, energises the mind for mental work, reduce obesity, etc. It also cures diabetes, kidney and prostate diseases, heart, brain and lung problems and many other diseases.

How to do?                                                                               Kapalabhati is done in a sitting posture, you can opt any comfortable position. Your spine should be straight. Breath normally at first and when composed start this breathing exercise. Inhale as normal and exhale quickly through both nostrils, producing a puffing sound.

Your abdomen muscles should be contracted with each exhalation. The breath should be expelled fully. Inhaling is automatic - the abdominal muscles will relax automatically.  

Start practicing Kapalbhati pranayama with 30 to 50 breaths then increase for about 5 minutes and gradually to a maximum of 10 minutes. You may take short breaks when you start out on this yogic breathing exercise.

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika Pranayama engages rapid movement of the belly like the bellows of a blacksmith hence it is also called Bellow Breathing. This breathing excercise increases the flow of air into the body and produces inner heat at the physical and subtle level. This Pranayama burns up toxins and removes diseases of all the doshas or humours: kapha (phlegm), pitta (bile) and vata (wind). The rapid exchange of air in the lungs done in this technique stimulates the metabolic rate, produces heat and flushes out wastes and toxins.

How to do?

Sit in any comfortable sitting posture with your spine straight. Inhale deeply filling the lungs upto the diaphram and exhale with full force emptying the lungs. In this Pranayama equal emphasis should be laid on inhalation and exhalation. The inhalations and exhalations should be done with slow speed or medium speed or fast speed depending on your practice, capacity and state of health. You can practice this Pranayama for 2 to 5 minutes as per your comfort level. People with weak heart or week lungs should do Bhastrika with slow speed.

Bahya Pranayama (with mahabandha)

Bahya Pranayama is a method of retention of the breathing process after exhalation of breath and Mahabandha is process of applying all bandhas tothe body. There are three types of bandhas (locks) in Pranayama. The first one is Jalandhur Bandha (touching the chin on the pit located near the base of throat), second is  Uddiyana Bandha ( pulling the stomach in so as to touch the back) and third is Mula bandha (pulling up the peridieum by contracting the anus and tightening of the lower abdomen). In the position of Mahabandha all three bandhas are applied simultaneously. 

How to do?

Sit in one of the meditative postures keeping your spine erect. First breathe in and fill your lungs upto diaphragm. Then breathe out with full force and suspend the breathing process, simultaneously applying the mahabandha. Remain in this position for the time you feel like inhaling again. Now exhale and release the three bandhas gradually in a sequence starting from Jalandhar Bandh.  It completes one cycle of this breathing technique. A minimum of three such cycles is recommended which take two minutes to complete.


Udgeeta Pranayama ("Om" chanting)

Udgeeta Pranayama is commonly known as Omkari japa means chanting of Om. In Sanskrit Udgeeta means singing in a loud pitch.Literally Udgeet pranayama means chanting of Om in a loud pitch. This is very relaxing technique helps in insomnia by deepening the quality of sleep and relieving bad dreams. It also helps the mind to become focused and facilitate the practice of conscious sleep (Yoga Nidra).

How to do?

Sit in comfortable sitting posture with your eyes closed. Inhale slowly and deeply and slowly and steadily chant Om while exhaling. While chanting Om try to focus on the agnya center (the command center) that is, the point between the two eyebrows. With practice, try to lengthen each breath to one-minute including the inhalation and exhalation.


Savasana also known as Mrtaasana or "Corpse Pose" is an ultimate relaxing pose that is practiced as a concluding asana. It is an ultimate relaxing pose that provides relaxation to mind and body as well. It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It reduces headache, fatigue, nervousness and helps to cure asthma, constipation, diabetes, indigestion, insomnia, and lumbago. It improves concentration also.


How to do?

Lie flat on your back with hands on the ground by the sides and legs open with feet on either side. Eyes should be closed and the entire body should be kept relaxed. Breathe normally and relax all muscles of the body. There should be no movement in any part of the body. Though lying relaxed and motionless one should be fully conscious and awaken. Remain in Savasana for about five minutes, breathing easily and then come out of the position without disturbing your peaceful state. Stretch out your body and take a deep breath, roll onto your side into the fetal position, then gradually ease your way up to a sitting or standing position, moving slowly without any sudden or jerky movements.


Yoga Exercises

Adho Mukha Svanasana II Anulom Viloma II Apanasana II Ardha Matsyendhrasana II Balasana II Bhunjangasana II Bidalasana II Chandrasana II Chaturangasana II Gomukhasana II Halasana II Janu Sirsasana II Jathra Parivartanasan II Konasana II Mandukasana II Matsyasana II Natarajasana II Padmasan II Paripurna Navasana II Parsva Uttanasana II Pascimottanasana II Pranayama II Purvottanasana II Salamba Sirsasana II Sarvangasana II Setu Bandha Sarvangasana II Siddhasana II Simhasana II Sukhasana II Utkatasana II Uttanasana II Utthita II Vajrasana II Virbhadrasana II Vriksasana





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