What is Pranayama
Pranayama is yogic kriya to perform control of breathing.”Prana” is made up of breath or vital energy present in the body. Prana is the source of pranic energy responsible for the life and “Ayama” means control. Taken together Pranayama means “Breathing Control”.
The rhythms of pranic energy can be controlled with pranayama and it helps achieve a healthy body and mind. Patanjali wrote in his text Yoga Sutra that pranayama is a way of reaching higher states of consciousness and mentioned control over breathing as an indispensable practice to attain Samadhi. Hatha Yoga also talks about different types of Pranayama that will keep the body and mind healthy.
Five types of prana – Prana, Apana, Vyan, Udana and Samana – are responsible for various activities in the body. Of these five types, Prana and Apana are the most important.
Types of Pranayama
The practise of Pranayama brings about a balance in the actions of these pranas, resulting in a healthy body and mind.
This includes the use of the abdominal and thoracic cavity and is also known as three-part breathing because it involves the entire area from the abdomen to lungs.
- Yogic Breathing: Inhale slowly, letting the abdomen rise. When the abdomen is filled with breath as much as possible, make the chest extend outward and upward. When the lungs have inhaled nearly to their full capacity inhale little more and so that the clavicles rise up. Exhale slowly and repeat. Continue the exercise without tension. Breathing rate should be natural.
- Deep Breathing: Begin with normal breathing, preferably abdominal or yogic breathing exercise. Count when you inhale and count when you exhale. At beginning count to 4 during inhale and count to 4 during exhale. Later increase the duration of exhaling. This type of pranayama reduces blood pressure.
- Fast Breathing: It may be of many types. Inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils, inhaling and exhaling through one nostril while the other is closed with the finger, or inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. Due to rapid inhalations and exhalations the carbon dioxide level in blood is reduced.
- Viloma Breathing: “Vi” means against and “loma” means hair. Viloma is an interrupted breathing technique, in which you take a short pause while breathing. This pranayama teaches the concept of expanding the breath. There are three variants of this Pranayama – the inhalation is interrupted, the exhalation is interrupted and both inhalation and exhalation is interrupted
- Anuloma Viloma Breathing: Also known as alternate nostril breathing it is best practised while in meditation. Its purpose is to stimulate nadis or energy channels that run across our bodies. Anuloma Viloma tries to cleanse the mind and stimulate the right and left nadis so that they are balanced.
- Ujjayi Breathing: “Ujjayi” means victorious. Focus your awareness on your throat. Slightly contract the throat and fill your entire lungs with breath. This is a technique used in Ashtanga asana. It is good for curing insomnia and cardiac problems.
- Bhramari Breathing: Place the index finger on the forehead and the remaining fingers to close the eyes. Inhale deeply through both nostrils. Exhale through the mouth by making a sound like a bee humming.