Pranayama In yoga is the art of breath control. It mainly consists of synchronizing your breath with your movements between asanas, but it is also a distinct breathing exercise on its own, typically performed after asanas.
Pranayama is not only the generally understood control of breath, but it is the control of prana by breath. These exercises include breathing in a particular pattern of inhalation, holding of breath, exhalation through the nostrils(1)(2).
Correctly practiced, pranayama brings peace between your body, mind, and spirit under the right guidance, making it physically, mentally, and spiritually powerful (2).
What Is Prana?
Prana is defined by the ancient Indian system of yoga as the fundamental life force or energy that separates the living from the dead. This energy or chi of life force, as it is called, flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called ‘Nadi’ and ‘chakra’ energy centers.
Prana is the precious energy that our subtle and physical layers require, without which our body will die. It’s keeping us alive. From the physical breath to the energy of awareness to kundalini shakti to the original creative force, prana has several layers of significance. Yogis claim the world as a whole is a representation of prana(2).
Benefits of pranayama
Breathing in a proper manner, it’s essential to healthy and happy living. When we properly take control of our breath it can bring us to the present moment, increase our self-awareness, and bring a sense of calmness.
Using complex rhythms and techniques to offer us various mental, emotional, and physical benefits, Pranayama is way more than just the knowledge of the breath(2).
Here are some of the benefits you gain when practicing this technique:
- Calm your mind, reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Improve your concentration.
- Increase your energy levels and bring enthusiasm and positivity.
- Boost your immune system
- Rejuvenate your body and mind
- Even slow down the aging process
Helpful Tips for Getting Started(3)
- Never force or restrict your breath: Don’t risk the breathing efficiency. Do the very best you can. The more you train, the more you will be able to do the exercises, and you will be able to use more of your lung capacity eventually.
- You be the judge: Stop immediately and return to normal breathing if you feel any pain or light-headedness. For advice and supervision, consult a teacher.
- Patience and practice: With great care and knowledge, pranayama should be completed. Try to remain focused on the ride, not the destination! You may begin to note the advantages of the practice over time.
6 Pranayama Techniques you can try
You can get a taste of them, but we highly suggest practicing Pranayama in person under the guidance of a trained instructor. At any time of the day, you can perform these pranayama exercises, ideally with an empty stomach.
Low levels of energy? Rapidly and powerfully, three rounds of Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath) raise the vitality and relax the mind.
- Vigorously inhale and exhale.
Is activity humming in your mind? Can’t you stop worrying about what you were told by somebody? Find a quiet corner and try the brakes in the buzzing mind of the Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama).
- Deeply inhale and then make the sound of humming as you exhale.
- For those with hypertension, this breathing strategy is particularly useful.
Kapalabhati practitioners believe this breathing technique can help remove mucus in the air passages, alleviate inflammation, decrease bloating, and increase the capacity of the lungs. Kapalabhati is an invigorating technique that can create heat in the body. If you feel cold or sluggish, Kapalabhati is nice to do in the morning. When you’re feeling congested or bloated, but don’t try it on a full stomach. If you are pregnant or suffer from blood pressure problems or heart issues, avoid this procedure.
- Begin by sitting straight in a comfortable position, and exhale.
- Inhale through both nostrils briefly, then exhale sharply (out of your nose again) while pushing your navel toward your neck.
- The exhalation is short and quick, while the inhalation is short and passive, but very active.
- Once again, when you exhale, draw your navel in and soften it upon inhalation.
- Do one round of 30 (counting the exhalations) with some deep breaths in between and rest for a minute.
- Only repeat. Start with 15 if this seems strenuous and work your way up gradually.
Sitali also means cooling, which describes the effect on your mind and body that it can have. This breath helps heat to clear with coolness. Do it during summer and in hot climates. Sitali is a perfect tool for trying to cool down and relax if you feel overheated, irritable, or find yourself waiting impatiently in hot weather!
- Roll your tongue, forming a tube, until the outer edges touch. If you can’t curl your tongue, use your mouth to make an oval shape to hold your tongue flat.
- Through your mouth, inhale, take in all the oxygen you can. Maybe it makes a hissing sound.
- Bring the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth after you inhale and close your lips.
- In your month, feel the coolness of your inhalation and then exhale through your nose.
- Repeat five to ten times, or as possible.
Nadhi Sodhana aka Anuloma Viloma
Nadhi sodhana is a very comfortable, balancing breath, also known as alternate nostril breathing, which is used to help calm the nervous system and assist in the sleep of a restful night. It is assumed that by increasing the amount of oxygen taken into the body, this breath will also purify the blood, relax the mind, decrease tension, and encourage concentration. Is a steady, relaxing breath that can be done at any time of the day is Nadhi Sodhana. When you are anxious, nervous, or have trouble falling asleep, consider using this strategy.
You can do Nadhi sodhana by sitting or lying down.
- Start by emptying all the air out of your lungs.
- Block your right nostril using the thumb of your dominant hand and only inhale through your left nostril. Be sure to inhale into your stomach, not into your chest.
- Seal your left nostril with the ring finger of the same hand while you’re full of breath, leave your right nostril closed, and hold your breath for a moment.
- Then loosen the thumb and exhale only through the right nostril.
- Make sure to exhale all the air from the right side and pause on the same side before inhaling again.
- When you have inhaled on the right side and exhaled on the left side, seal both nostrils. Inhalation and exhalation from both nostrils are part of a full breath cycle.
- You can do a four-count inhale if you’re just starting out, holding your breath for four to eight counts, then exhale for four counts.
- Do up to ten cycles and note how your body reacts.
Uayi means victorious breath; due to the sound it makes, it’s often referred to as ocean breath. In asana practice, this breath is often used, especially in ashtanga and vinyasa classes. Ujjayi advocates complete expansion of the lungs, and it will help to relax the mind by concentrating your attention on your breath. Do it any time of day, this breath can be practiced for up to 10 minutes. Try it for an asana workout as well.
- Find a position where a straight spine will comfortably sit with you.
- Via both nostrils, take a steady breath in. Inhale until your lung capacity is reached; maintain a straight spine.
- Hold your breath for a second, then, as if you were about to whisper a secret, constrict some of the breath in the back of your throat and exhale slowly through both nostrils.
- This exhalation sounds like a wave from the ocean or a gentle stream of air.
- When you exhale, you can sense the air on the roof of your mouth.
- Do it up to 20 times.
Practicing these techniques reasonably safely is not risk-free. Beginners within their skills can avoid advanced steps in the exercise. Functional limitations should be taken into account.
Pranayama was the yoga activity leading to most injuries, with four injuries in a sample of 76 practitioners, according to the latest sample. Limited reports of adverse effects have been reported, including hematoma and pneumothorax, although the links are not always well established.
You should avoid this practice if you are pregnant, or suffer from diabetes, high or low blood pressure, heart conditions, epilepsy, or vertigo, please consult your doctor before performing any of these breathing exercises (1)(3).
One of the most normal things we do as humans is to breathe. It is a gift and a very powerful tool that can allow us to make our lives more comfortable and balanced.
Pranayama practice can help us soothe the ailments of everyday pressures, physical symptoms, and feelings that have taken over our mind, taking time to concentrate on the breath.
We can return to a neutral state of being, achieve clarity, feel rejuvenated, and improve an overall sense of well-being just by improving and concentrating on the breath. These are only a few great reasons to invite you to practice Pranayama in your everyday routine.