Pranayama, as the name suggests Prana-(Vital energy) and Ayama-(Exercise). So Pranayama is basically a form of exercising the breath in a systematic pattern, involving the Prana or Vital energy, aimed at aligning the 4 dimensions of Body, Mind, Emotions and Energy in a perfect equilibrium.
Today most of us do it as merely a breathing exercise, but when it was first given to the humanity, it was taught as an all-inclusive process that aims at evolving the human being to perceive and experience dimensions that are usually considered as mystical and that which cannot be grasped by the faculties of the 5 basic senses of vision, smell, taste, touch and sound.
Even today in certain Schools of Yoga that have been maintained as per the prescription of Yogic traditions, Pranayama is taught as a sacred practice and is handled with utmost care and devotion. These techniques are merely tools to transform a human being from being just flesh and bone to something that is beyond the physical realm.
Also Read: Tips To Feel More Energetic Every Day
5 Major Types of Pranayama and How To Do Them?
#1. Nadi Shodhana
Following are the steps to perform Nadi Shodhana Pranayama.
- Sit down in a comfortable place in a crossed legged posture.
- Take a deep breath and as you exhale, relax totally into it.
- Now take your Right hand Thumb to close the Right Nostril. Deeply inhale through the left nostril.
- Do not breathe forcefully. Just make sure your breath is slightly deeper than the normal and comfortable as well.
- Now close the left nostril with you ring finger and exhale with through the right nostril.
- Continuing the process, while the left nostril is still closed, deeply inhale through the right nostril and once you are full, again close the right nostril with the thumb and release the left nostril by exhaling gently.
- You can do this process for a minimum of 7 minutes. It can be extended for as long as it is comfortable.
#2. Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi literally means an Ocean and interestingly this Pranayama is about mimicking the oceanic sound or the sound of waves.
- To start with, sit comfortably in a crossed legged posture in a well-ventilated environment. Take a deep breath and relax your body and mind with the exhalation.
- Now start to inhale and exhale deeply using your mouth.
- While you do this, you need to constrict the throat as If something is chocking it while you do the exhalation and inhalation.
- This process shall produce sound that is almost similar to the waves of the ocean when you breathe.
- After about 5 minutes of the above process, close your mouth and continue the process this time using your nostrils. Make sure the constriction doesn’t slacken. This is Ujjayi Pranayama. It is advised to do it for a minimum of 5 minutes. Though it should not be extended beyond 15 minutes when doing at a stretch.
#3. Bhastrika Pranayama
- Sit in a comfortable crossed legged posture. If your body is flexible enough, you can sit in Lotus posture as well. Vajrasana is also good for this breathing technique.
- Inhale forcefully through both the nostrils and make sure that your lungs are full. Once you inhale fully, exhale with as much force as you can by making a hissing sound.
- In Bhastrika, one needs to apply force while breathing in and out. Initially it is recommended that you do not force yourself too much. Do it gently and slowly. With time try to increase the intensity of the force as well as the speed of breathing.
- Please note that irresponsible forced breathing can lead to certain damage in the lung tissue.
#4. Bhramari Pranayama
- Sit in a simple crossed legged posture or Lotus posture or Vajrasana.
- Take a deep breath and relax into it as you exhale.
- Now close your ear flaps with your thumbs tightly enough.
- Place your Index finger just above your eye brows and rest the remaining part of the finger over your eye lids with mild pressure.
- Now close you nostrils by applying pressure with your middle fingers.
- Keep the mouth tightly closed making sure no transaction happened through it.
- Now focus in the middle of your eye brows, and once you are feel like exhaling, gently breathe out with the sound “OM” or simply “MM”.
- Repeat this process for a minimum of three times. You can do it as many times as it is comfortable to you.
#5. Kapalbhati Pranayama
Kapalbhati Pranayama is an advanced form of Pranayama technique. Therefore it is advised you learn it from a certified Yoga Teacher who can lead you into the practice by proper corrections since doing it wrongly may cause damage to your system. Let us briefly go through the basic Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique.
- Ideally, Vajrasan is the best for doing Kapalbhati. You can also opt for a simple cross legged posture or even the Lotus posture.
- Rest your palms over your thighs comfortably facing upwards.
- Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your system totally.
- Now inhale normally and forcefully push the stomach muscles in a jerk, as if they are hitting your spine. Relax for a moment and again repeat the process.
- This puts a lot of pressure over your abdominal muscles and internal organs as well. Therefore it is highly important that you learn it under the guidance of a Yoga Teacher.
- Initially you can do 10-15 kapalbhatis. As time passes, you can slowly keep increasing the number by 5 per day. Also do not strain the muscles too much.
- Ideally doing 100 kapalbhatis would be sufficient for a moderate practitioner of yoga.
Well we may not know the full depth and dimension of Pranayama and all its mystical aspects, but what we do know is that it has numerous health benefits to offer. Let us now explore the health benefits of doing Pranayama.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Doing Pranayama
1) Reduce Rate of Breathing:
Regular practice of Pranayama deepens your breath and reduces the number of breaths you take per minute. A reduction in no. of breaths indicates more oxygen supply to the lungs and thus better purification of blood leading to better cellular health.
2) Reduce Hypertension:
Studies have also shown that regular practice of Pranayama brings down the hypertension and eases the circulatory system. Circulatory system is at its best when it eases and hence a balance is maintained in the body.
3) Decrease Coronary Atherosclerosis:
Practice of Pranayama has been proven to reduce coronary artery disease in the number of angina patients. Important findings show that lipid lowering and plaque stabilising effects of Pranayama seem to be similar to that of stain drugs.
4) Improves Mood and Functioning:
Regular practice of Pranayama improved results in reducing perceived stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, anger etc. it balances the mood by balancing the hormonal functioning in the blood stream.
5) Helps in Weight Loss:
Pranayama also works on body metabolism as similar to aerobic exercise forms and is very important to know that the process of weight loss though happens, happens rather quickly.
6) Strengthen Digestive System:
Certain Pranayama techniques such as Kapalbhati, Agnisaar and Bahya, provide a good exercise to the stomach muscles and the Intestines. People suffering from most digestive issues either get cure or their condition stabilises substantially.
7) Anti-Aging Effects:
Since Pranayama is a breathing technique, it helps in delaying the aging process of cell death and keeps the cells active and vibrant as it helps in making sure sufficient amount of oxygen is reached.
8) Controls Cancer:
Studies have shown that cancer cells cannot survive in an atmosphere where oxygen is abundantly available. In other words, more the oxygen reaching the cells, more the cancer cells die. And Pranayama helps in supplying as much oxygen as possible to these cells.
Regular Practice of Pranayama regulates the hormonal secretions in balanced proportions at the right intervals. It also helps regulate the development of the foetus.
Also Read: Pregnancy Guide – Pregnancy Week By Week
10) Better Mental Health:
One of the major aspects of Pranayama is to achieve a state of equanimity within the mental escape. It works on your mental level by stabilising the flow of thoughts as well as giving you a sense of vibrancy which naturally keeps you high!