Pranayama

The word Pranayama is formed by two words i.e. 'Prana' and 'Ayama'. ‘Prana’ means breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy or strength. 'Ayama' means stretch, extension, expansion, regulation, prolongation, restraint or control. 'Pranayama' thus means the prolongation of breath and its restraint.

Patanjali, an authority in Yoga, in his book Yoga Sutras (Ch. 2, Sutras 49-51) describes Pranayama as the controlled intake and outflow of breath in a firmly established practice.

With each inhale we bring oxygen into the body and spark the transformation of nutrients into fuel. Each exhale purges the body of carbon dioxide, a toxic waste. ‘Puraka’ means to inhale, ‘Kumbhaka’ means to withhold the breath with inhaled air and ‘Rechaka’ means to exhale.



Benefits:

  1. Conferring upon its practitioner a calm, balanced, and focused mind, increased vitality, and longevity.

  2. Awakens the brain and the cerebrospinal nerve centers to their limitless potential. Practice of pranayama has been reported to be beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, curing depression, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma, stuttering and reducing signs of oxidative stress.

  3. Mind-Body Rejuvenation: Connects the body to the solar plexus, where tremendous potential energy is stored. Breathing techniques release this energy for physical and mental rejuvenation.

  4. Slows aging: In old age, the respiratory function decreases due to the contraction of the air cells of the lungs, which then 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.

Types:

  1. Anulom Vilom: “Alternative nostril breathing” which balances the two nervous systems of the body. It is also called Nadi Shodhana. Nadi means channel and refers to the energy pathways through which prana flows. Shodhana means cleansing -- so Nadi Shodhana means channel cleaning.

    Steps
    :

    1. Hold right nasal with right hand thumb and breathe in from left.

    2. After slow, steady and full inhalation, close left nasal with middle and ring fingers.

    3. Keep the palm in the front just above the nose.

    4. Breathe out from right nasal.

    5. Now breathe in from right nasal, close it and open left nasal to breathe out.
       

  2. Baharya: Breathe air out, touch chin to chest, squeeze stomach completely and hold for a while. Then release chin, breathe in slowly.

  3. Bhastrika: Breathe in through both the nostrils forcefully, till the lungs are full and diaphragm is stretched. Then breathe out forcefully.

  4. Bhramri:

    1. Close ears with thumb, index finger on forehand, and rest 3 on base of nose touching eyes.

    2. Breathe in.

    3. Breathe out through nose humming like a bee.

  5. Dirgha (Three Part Breathing): Known as the "complete" or "three-part" breath, dirgha pranayama teaches how to fill the three chambers of the lungs, beginning with the lower lungs, and then moving up through the thoracic region and into the clavicular region. 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, though you can do it while sitting also. It promotes proper diaphragmatic breathing, relaxes the mind and body, oxygenates the blood and purges the lungs of residual carbon dioxide.

    Steps
    :

    1. Step I:

      1. Sit with spine erect or lie down on your back and close your eyes. Begin taking long, slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils.

      2. As you inhale, allow the belly to fill with air, drawing air deep into the lower lungs. Your belly should rise up like a balloon. Hold this position for a few seconds.

      3. Exhale drawing the belly inwards ensure there is no air left.

    2. Step II:

      1. Breathe into your belly as in Step #1, but also expand the mid-chest region by allowing the rib cage to open outward to the sides.

      2. Inhale a bit more to fill up air in your rib cage.

      3. When you exhale, exhale air from your rib cage and then from your belly.

    3. Step III:

      1. Inhale deeply to fill up your belly and rib cage with air.

      2. Inhale a bit more to fill up your heart center (area around the heart) with air.

      3. When you exhale, exhale air from the heart center, then the rib cage and then the belly.

  6. Kapal-Bhati: ‘Kapal’ means forehead and ‘Bhati’ means light. Hence, Kapal-Bhati refers to that exercise which makes the forehead and face luminous and lustrous.

    Steps:

    1. Breathe out forcefully. Your belly should be drawn in, as you exhale.

    2. When you inhale, let it happen passively without you making any effort to inhale as the belly goes back to normal position.

    3. Exhale forcefully again.

  7. Sitali: It is associated with a cooling effect generated by inhaling air inside while keeping the tongue protruded. This word has come from ‘Sheetal’ which means cool, and this pranayama technique will help achieve the same.

    Steps
    :

    1. Open your mouth in a "o" shape and start to inhale through the mouth.

    2. When you exhale, do so with your nose.

  8. Surya bhedana: It is characterized by inhalation through the surya nadi i.e. right nostril.

  9. Udgeeth: Breathe in deeply and chant OM.

  10. Ujjayi: ‘Ujjayi’ means the ocean and this pranayama is about mimicking the oceanic sound or the sound of the waves. It is often called the "sounding" breath or "ocean sounding" breathe. It involves constricting the back of the throat while breathing to create an "ah" sound -- thus the various "sounding" names.

    Steps:

    1. Come into a comfortable seated position with your spine erect, or lie down on your back.

    2. Begin taking long, slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils.

    3. Allow the breath to be gentle and relaxed as you slightly contract the back of your throat creating a steady hissing sound as you breathe in and out. The sound need not be forced, but it should be loud enough so that if someone came close to you they would hear it.

    4. Lengthen the inhalation and the exhalation as much as possible without creating tension anywhere in your body, and allow the sound of the breath to be continuous and smooth.

    5. To help create the proper "ah" sound, hold your hand up to your mouth and exhale as if trying to fog a mirror. Inhale the same way. Notice how you constrict the back of the throat to create the fog effect. Now close your mouth and do the same thing while breathing through the nose.

Don’ts:

  1. Breathe only through the nose, because by doing so the air which you take is filtered.

  2. Clear any blocked nostril. If your left nostril is blocked, lie on your right side for a few minutes. Lie on your left side if your right nostril is blocked.

  3. Do not strain yourself while doing ‘Kumbhak’ i.e. retaining the breathed air inside or keeping the air out after exhaling (Breathing in is called ‘puraka’, retaining the breathed air in is called ‘Kumbhak’ and exhaling the air is called ‘Recak').

  4. Do not do after a heavy meal. Give a gap of around 3 hours.

  5. During winter avoid practicing Sheetli, Sheetkari, Bhramari and Chandrabhedi Pranayama.

  6. During summer avoid practicing Surya Bhedi and Bhastrika Pranayama.

  7. Person suffering from High Blood Pressure should not stop breath while practicing Pranayama.

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