Pranayama refers to the entire process of controlled inhalation and exhalation combined with the retention of and holding out of the breath especially after inhalation and exhalation.
But, practise such controlled Pranayama (breathing) only after you gain expertise over the simple Pranayama stages!
Pranayama is the preparation stage for commencing the yogic asanas. Pranayama consists of the breathing exercises that not only warms up the body but also mentally prepares the mind to perform the yogic postures – all of which require the constant involvement of the mind.
Pranayama Breathing Exercises Methodology
Paranayama or for that matter all the yogic postures makes it mandatory that you perform them in a positive state of mind. That’s precisely why the wee hours (after you perform the daily excretion process and refresh yourself) are recommended for the yogic postures. Moreover, that time of the day is also comparatively pollution free and remains quite serene.
Above all, during Pranayama you set the stage for the remaining moments you would be spending for doing the yogic postures. After all, this will also prepare you mentally and physically for the strenuous day ahead.
Mentionably, all the yogic postures requires you to circulate around you a positive stream of energy. That can be generated when you do not think of any extraneous matter. Your mind must be concentrating on only making your body and mind strong.
What is Pranayama Breathing and How to Perform Pranayama Yoga?
Yoga science of breathing is called prayanama. Oxygen is the most vial nutrient to our body. It is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. We can do without food for weeks and without water for days, but without oxygen; we will die within a few minutes.
Where to Perform Pranayama yoga
Pranayama techniques are best practiced while sitting on the floor on a folded blanket. This form of practice is applicable to padmasana also. However; any other posture will do provided the back is kept erect from the base of the spine to the neck and perpendicular to the floor. Bad and poorly performed posture will lead to shallow breathing and low endurance. One must empty the bladder and bowels before starting pranayama yoga.
When to Perform Pranayama
Pranayama yoga must be performed in empty stomach. The best time for practice is the early morning, preferably before sunrise when the pollution is at its lowest level, and the body and brain are still free. However, if morning is unsuitable, pranayama may be practiced after sunset, when the air is cool and pleasant. The place suitable for all kinds of Yoga must be clean and calm.
Major Types of Pranayama and Instructions
Some major types of pranayama yoga are as follows:
- Nadi Sodhana
- Shitali Pranayama
- Ujjayi Pranayama
- Kapalabhati Pranayama
- Digra Pranayama
- Bhastrika Pranayama
- Bahya Pranayama
- Bhramari Pranayama
- Udgit pranayama
- Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama
- Agnisar Kriya
Instructions on How to Perform Pranayama Yoga
Following steps instruct on how to perfrom the nadi sodhana pranayama:
- Sit down in a comfortable place assuming a cross legged position
- Now use your thumb (right hand) to close the right side of your nose. Inhale deeply using the left nostril
- Now close the left nostril and exhale using the right one
- In the same way, now with the left nostril still closed, inhale using the right nostril and exhale with the left one
You can continue doing this exercise for around 10 – 15 times.
Sheetal also means cool, and this pranayama technique will help you achieve the same. To perform shitali pranayama, be seated in a comfortable position. Cross your legs and take five to six deep breaths to get yourself prepared.
Now open your mouth in a “o” shape and start to inhale through the mouth. When you exhale, do so with your nose.
This can be repeated five to ten times.
Ujjayi means the ocean and this pranayama is about mimicking the oceanic sound or the sound of the waves.
To do this, be seated in a comfortable position crossing your legs. Now start to inhale and exhale deeply using your mouth.
While doing this, constrict your throat as if something is choaking it when you exhale and inhale the air. This will produce a sound similar to the ocean when you breath.
Now close your mouth and start to breath using your nose, but maintain the same tone to your throat so you still continue to make the same sound as your breath.
You can repeat this prayanama breathing exercise for about ten to fifteen times.
To perform the kapalabhati pranayama technique, sit in a comfortable position crossing your legs. Perform two to three deep inhales and exhales.
Now inhale deeply and exhale forcefully drawing all the air out. Your belly should be drawn in, as you exhale.
When you inhale, let it happen passively without you making any effort to inhale as the belly goes back to normal position.
Exhale forcefully again and continue doing this for about 20 to 30 times.
Dirga Pranayama – Three Part Breathing
The dirga pranayam is a bit different from other types as it involves lying down on your back instead of being in a seated position. This technique involves very deep inhalation and exhalation.
To perform this panayama, lie down on your back and close your eyes. Breath normally and then slowly take deep breaths, relaxing your body.
Now inhale a lot of air in slowly to fill your belly up. Your belly should rise up like a balloon. Hold this position for a few seconds and exhale drawing the belly inwards ensure there is no air left.
In the second step, inhale deeply to fill up the belly. Inhale a bit more to fill up air in your rib cage. When you exhale, exhale air from your rib cage and then from your belly.
In the third step, inhale deeply to fill up your belly and rib cage with air. Inhale a bit more to fill up your heart center (area around the heart) with air. When you exhale, exhale air from the heart center, then the rib cage and then the belly.
Repeat the whole process for five to six times
VILOMA Pranayama involves praused breathing at regular intervals and can be divided into two stages. The first stage is called ‘paused inhalation’ and the second stage is called ‘paused exhalation’. Let’s look at these stages in detail:
Viloma Paused Inhalation:
- Lie down in a comfortable position and try to relax. Breath deeply, but normally
- Now inhale for 2 to 3 seconds and pause. Hold your breath for two seconds and then restart inhalation. Pause inhalation again after 2 to seconds. Inhale again. Repeat this process untill the lungs feel full of air
- Exhale now, slowly, till you feel empty of air
Viloma Paused Exhalation: The paused exhalation is the exact opposite of the inhalation process. In this case, you inhale deeply and normally without interruption, but exhale with regular pauses.
Just like Viloma Anuloma is about alternate nostril breathing. In this case, the inhalation and exhalation is done with one nostril blocked and the other partially open. Some variations of the yoga are granular anuloma.
This type of pranayama is particularly useful in clensing the nasal passages and creating calmness within.
What is the Importance of Pranayama?
Practice of pranayama yoga has been reported to be beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma, stuttering and reducing signs of oxidative stress. Pranayama techniques are also effective for depression cure. Practice of prayanama develops a steady mind, strong will-power and sound judgment. In addition regular pranayama helps extends life and enhance perception
In old age, the respiratory function decreases due to the contraction of the air cells of the lungs, which they takes in less oxygen. Prayanama will help to normalize their size and make the red corpuscles circulate in all parts of the body, infusing life and vigor throughout. Through regular practice even old people can delay the ageing process.