Yoga helps in holistic healing of the mind, body, and soul). Pranayama is one of the key elements of yoga. It is the practice of controlling your breath through various techniques and can be performed as is or can be combined with the yoga asanas. It is the process of coordinating our breaths to attain calmness and relax our body and mind. Yoga teachers suggest including pranayama in the yoga regime to optimize benefits.
The word has been derived from ‘Prana’ meaning vital energy or force and ‘Ayam’ means extension or regulation. Hence, the process is the extension of vital energy.
Things to care of while doing pranayama:-
- Tnhe place should be open, peaceful and ventilated
- Do it for minimum 10-15 minutes in a comfortable seating position in the morning
- Include it daily in your regime and do it at the end of asanas or before beginning the meditation process. Rest in Shavasana for few minutes after doing pranayama
- Preferably should be done on empty stomach (3-4 hours before any meal)
- A balanced diet is necessary
- Give 30 minutes to your body to come to its normal temperature
- Increase the time period and frequency gradually
It is highly recommended that you consult with your yoga trainer/teacher or physiotherapist before beginning with any breathing exercise.
Who/when should not do?
- People suffering from hypertension, low blood pressure, chronic heart conditions
- Recovering from a recent heart attack
- Pregnant women
- During menstruation
- Bronchitis, asthma patients or those facing respiratory issues
- Increases our energy levels and relaxes the mind and body
- Energizes and calms us, creates positive vibes, thereby, improving mental health and strength
- Helps in holistic development (physical, mental and spiritual)
- Improves blood circulation
- Helps provide relief in a number of medical ailments such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, headaches, stress, digestive problems, and some respiratory issues
- Improve cardiovascular function, respiratory and digestive system
There are three stages of practicing Pranayama:
- Purak (inhaling)
- Kumbhak (restraining your breath)
- Rechak (exhaling)
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
To perform this exercise, the hand gesture has to be in nasagra mudra (nose tip hand gesture). You should perform this technique in a comfortable position and the spine should be erect. Then bring the right hand in front of the face in Nasagra mudra (nose tip hand gesture).
It has 4 techniques- Preparatory, alternate nostril breathing, inner retention, and internal-external retention. It is advised to move gradually from one step to another. This technique enhances the vital capacity of the lungs and helps in attaining a meditative state.
This type of exercise makes the use of sound from the throat. It focuses on extending breath with complete comfort. The contraction of the throat is required but it has to be gentle. It can be performed in Shavasana before sleep. It boosts oxygen consumption, helps heart patients and people with sleep disorders and regulates blood pressure.
Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
It is a similar to Nadi Shodhana, excluding the breath-holding phase. It helps reduce stress, and tension.
In this practice, the air from the lungs is forcefully exhaled. But inhalation is made involuntarily. This is good for asthma and respiratory issues and improves alertness and concentration.
Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellow breath)
It is called as bellows breath. The only difference between Kapalbhati and Bhastrika is that both inhalation and exhalation are active and intentional. The body and mind should be relaxed while doing this exercise. It strengthens the nervous system and digestive system and is good for the throat.
Breathing is done from the mouth. Tongue sticks out from the mouth, sides are rolled up so that the tongue forms a tube. Breaths are taken from the tube and exhaled through the nose. It calms the mind and is beneficial for high blood pressure and aids in maintaining dental health.
The tongue is rolled up to touch the upper part of the mouth. It relaxes the mind and body and the technique again makes a hissing sound.
Bhramari humming bee
It helps in calming the mind and is best for destressing. The exhalation creates the humming sound and hence, it has been named so.
Mudra means gestures. Mudras could involve the entire body or just the hands. Mudras in combination/coordination with breathing exercises optimize the benefits and help to heal the mind, body, and soul.
Mudras have distinct characteristics of the elements and importance in pranayama.
Each finger is associated with different elements as mentioned below:-
- Thumb – Fire Element
- Index Finger – Air Element
- Middle Finger – Space Element
- Ring Finger – Earth Element
- Little Finger – Water Element
Yoga mudras are practiced by sitting cross-legged or in a comfortable position. The spine has to be straight and the focus should be on your breathing.
- Chin mudra(Increases concentration power and energy in the body, improves sleep pattern and relieves low back pain)
- Chinmaya mudra Stimulates digestion and energizes the body
- Adi mudra relaxes the nervous system, increases the capacity of the lungs and helps reduce snoring
- Brahma mudra helps de-stress and calms the nervous system
Hence, it is advised to include pranayama in your routine will help you at both a physical and psychological level. However, having a balanced and nutritious diet is essential along with the exercise routine.