8 Life changing breathing techniques (PRANAYAM)
Recently on 21st Jun 2015 we all have celebrated first ‘International Yoga day’. We all know practice of yoga do wonders to our overall health and peace of mind. With our daily crazy work schedule, we rarely get any time to do exercise and reboot our self. Luckily you don’t need to spend hours on different yoga asanas (postures); all it takes is just 15-20 minutes a day to help you to feel younger, happier and more energetic. Yoga is perfect meditation technique and easy way to master your emotions and get healthy, stress free mind and soul. To make major difference in your health, you simply just need to breathe differently. Yes you read it correctly! Breathing (deep breathing) is the most powerful healing tool which all of us have. Yet too often we tend to neglect it.
First let’s understand, how is deep breathing useful to us? Mostly people breathe very shallowly, which is known as ‘Chest- breathing’. But ideally breathing should be deep which is called as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’. Diaphragmatic breathing enables air movement in every part of lungs and not just upper part of lungs as in case of ‘chest breathing’. So why is it better to breathe from the diaphragm? The answer is the capillaries in lungs help exchange oxygen with rest of your body, and there are more of them in the lower parts of lungs than upper parts of the lungs. When you breathe shallowly your body have to work harder as it doesn’t oxygenate the blood circulating in your arteries and veins very efficiently. Most importantly breathing should be a nasal breathing and not from mouth. Also it should be silent, if there is any noise during breathing then it is not proper, you need to work on that. Another benefit of such deep breathing is that the abdominal muscles expand and contracts all around the organs of digestion; which helps in better digestion. Also higher oxygen level in blood stream helps to nourish and repair the body’s cells. Pranayam can change lives. It leads to better, healthier muscles, tissues and organs. You feel more youthful, supple, slim, energetic, focused and calm. Pranayam brings the perfect balance of the three doshas i..e Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and maintains their balance. Many people have realized that their serious, chronic ailments are getting cured with systematic and regular practice of Pranyam. So let’s go ahead and take charge of our life like never before!
Pranayam (Pran[breathing] + Ayam [expansion] => Extension of breath or life span) is commonly known as Breathing exercise. It includes following 8 breathing exercises in sequence.
Dizziness is never the goal. If you ever feel uncomfortable while holding breath then tone it down to just few seconds at most. Some Do’s and Don’ts are:
-Always practice any pranayam in outdoors or with a window open. Better to practice in the morning in fresh air.
- Don’t do any pranayam immediately after any meal. There should be gap of at least 3-4 hours between your yoga practice and meal.
-Avoid practicing pranayam in polluted or too hot or too cold air.
-Don’t wear constricting pants or belts during pranayam.
- Sit comfortable with neck, back, spine absolutely straight. The body should be stable.
- Don’t do any pranayam forcefully. Go slow and easy. Just give yourself some time to develop the right rhythm and pace. Practice any exercise /yoga according to your physical capacity.
- Don’t overdo number of repetitions. 5-10 minutes of each pranayam is good enough.
- For even better result maintain a balanced diet along with these pranayam practice.
For reference you can watch videos (attached here) of yoga by swami Ramdev baba. This is not the promotion but we liked the way he has explained the techniques; they are very simple for any lay person to pick up and follow.
1. Bhastrika Pranayam: (It resembles blowing of bellows)
It improves your physical and mental ability. Cures asthma by cleansing your wind pipe. Helps to strengthen your lungs.Burns the excess fat from your body. Ideal for diseases of nose, chest and cures asthma, migraine, neurological, problems depression. It improves blood circulation. Cures obesity and arthritis. Relieve stress depression and hypertension.
Start with deep breath-in where we expand our stomach to the maximum. The air is completely breathed out with force, sucking your navel towards the backbone. Repeat the process for 2-5 minutes.
Anytime, anyplace, Effective especially in the morning.
2. Kapal Bhati Pranayam (“Skull Shining Breath”)
Use? : Bright up your day from inside out. Shake off stale energy.It removes toxins from the body and helps to clean the internal system. Warm up the body.Activates internal organs, brain and cleanse your body. Improves blood circulation. Balances the blood sugar level. Reduces belly fat. Helps in quick weight loss. It is very effective in curing the stomach disorder, digestive disorder, obesity and many problems like breast cancer, diabetes, sinus, even hair loss. Improves the function of the reproductive systems. Cures erectile dysfunction naturally. Helps to produce insulin hormone naturally by improving function of pancreas.
Slowly inhale deeply then exhale completely from the lower belly. Once comfortable with the contraction, increase the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths. When you exhale with hissing sound try to think that your disorders are coming out of your nose. Do not stress on inhaling. It will be done automatically after each exhaling. Repeat the steps for 2-5 minutes and take rest for 1 minute and resume. You can gradually increase the time for 20-30 minutes.Don’t do this pranayam very fast; pace should be medium.
When? : Anytime but not directly after any meal.Your stomach should not be full while doing this pranayam. Pregnant woman should not do this pranayam. Even during first 3 days of periods avoid this pranayam.
3. Bahaya Pranayam (Do Agnisaar, if you could not do bahaya pranayam.)
Cures constipation, gastric problem,acidity, hernia completely. Problems related to urine, reproductive organs, sperm and prostate get cure. It is beneficial in diabetes too. Agnisar pranayam helps to reduce the belly fat.
In this pranayam breath is kept outside during the practice so the name is bahya pranayam. It should be done after kapalbhati pranayam. For this sit comfortably. Take a deep breath and exhale completely to evacuate the lungs as much as possible. Hold your breath and touch your chin to the chest. (This is called ‘Jalandhar bandha’ or ‘Throat lock’). By pulling your stomach in and up under the rib cage such that the stomach and the back seem to touch each other from inside.(This is called ‘Uddiyana bandha’). Lift the muscle from groin area (This is called ‘Mulabandha or root lock’).Hold the three bandhas for some time as much as you can 10-15 seconds then breathe in deeply to release these three locks. Repeat for 2-5 minutes daily.
For Agnisar Panayam-> Sit comfortably. Slowly breathe in and exhale completely. Stop the breath outside. Stretch both your hands straight and keep them on your knees with slight pressure. Contract and expand your stomach for 5-10 times, then slowly inhale.Repeat the steps for 3-5 minutes. Take some rest.
This pranayam should be done on empty stomach only. There should be a gap of 4-5 hours between your meal and this yoga practice. Pregnant woman should not practice this pranayam. Even during first 3 days of period avoid this pranayam. The people suffering from heart diseases, blood pressure and cervical colitis, hernia, ear, nose and eye problems should not practice this pranayam. Even the person undergone stomach operation recently should not practice this pranayam. These can be controlled by other type of easy pranayam and asanas.
4. Anulom Vilom Pranayam (“ Alternate Nostril Breathing” / “Nadi Shodhan”)
Brings calm and balances the left and right hemisphere of brain. Improves your memory power. It improves your eye sight. Keeps you away from heart diseases. It removes blockage of arteries. Helps to purify the blood. Cures blood pressure, diabetes, lung problems. Regular practice of this pranayam cleanse, strengthen and tones your nervous system. Very useful for pregnant woman.
Sit straight comfortably (in meditative pose). Hold the right thumb over right nostril and inhale deeply and slowly through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close the left nostril with the ring finger, and then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling though the right nostril, closing off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril. Repeat the process for at least 3-5 minutes. Gradually increase it to 20-30 minutes daily to cure any chronic disease and for better result.
Whenever it’s time to concentrate or energize. Don’t do before bed as this breathing helps to make us awake; just like a cup of tea/coffee.
5. Ujjai Pranayam (“Victorious Breath)
The sound vibrations calm your mind making it more focused. Clears sound pipe and cures thyroid. Reduces snoring. Raises your body heat. Cures cough, cold, asthma and diseases of nose and ears.
Start the pranayam with normal inhale and exhale completely.Inhale as long as you can, making a sound from your throat. Bend down your head,blocking a free flow of air and Withhold for 2-5 seconds. While exhaling close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe out through your left nostril. Repeat the process for 5-10 times. Take as much time as you need
When? : Anytime. But not immediately after any meal.
6. Bhramri Pranayam (“Nasal snoring”)
Prevents and cures throat diseases by stimulating thyroid glands. Streamline the sound production process. Your voice become more rhythmic, soft and melodious. Relieves from tension, calms and refreshes your mind. Increases blood circulation. Controls and cures high blood pressure. Very useful for pregnant woman, eases childbirth.
In this pranayam the breathing sounds like humming of a bee. Close your ears with thumbs, place your index fingers on the temple and close your eyes with the other three fingers. Slowly inhale through your nose and withhold it for a few seconds. Keep your mouth closed. Now slowly exhale by making a humming sound like ‘hmmmmm’. Feel your body releases impurity from your body and experiencing positive energy. Repeat this at least for 5-10 times( 3-5 minutes).
When? : Whenever it’s time to concentrate or energize. Especially in the morning.
7. Udgeeth Pranayam (“Omkar Japa” – chanting of “Om”)
This is excellent breathing exercise for meditation. It calm mind and brings balance. It relieves tension, anxiety and anger. Very effective against hypertension. Cures insomnia ( sleep issue) and bad dreams. Controls and cures high blood pressure. Cures acidity and nervous system related issues. Improves memory power. Very useful for pregnant woman as it also helps in excellent brain development of a child.
Take a deep breath and while exhaling chant Ommmmmmmmmmmm for a long time as much you can. Concentrate on your breath and feel the positive energy comes when you inhale and negative energy going out when you exhale. Repeat the process for 5-10 minutes daily.
Anytime. Whenever it’s time to concentrate or energize. Especially in the morning on empty stomach and in fresh air.
8. Pranav Pranayam (Concentration on breathing)
Excellent for mediation and concentration. Strengthens the mind. Releases stress and depression. This is the simplest breathing exercise and people of all age group can do this effortlessly.
This is simple and effective type of meditation. After practicing all above pranayam concentrate your mind on inhaling and exhaling, for some time this is called ‘Pranav pranayam’. For this sit comfortably (Sukhasana/ Padmasan/ Vajrasan) quietly. Breathe normally and concentrate your mind on inhaling and exhaling. Practice this pranayam for 5-10 minutes( or up to 1hr as per your available time; as this is a kind of meditation).
Anytime. Whenever it’s time to concentrate or energize. Especially in the morning on empty stomach and in fresh air.
It is always best to start learning yoga/pranayam under the guidence of qualified yoga teacher who can teach you the correct way to do any yoga techniques. Certain people suffering from some delicate diseases must consult their physician before practice these exercise. If you feel you don’t get enough time to do any yoga/ exercise then at least do the anulom- vilom pranyam and kapalbhati breathing exercise for better health (even weak people can do this), as these two breathing exercises forms the backbone of your pranayam.