“Mindful breathing is a bridge that connects the body to the mind.”
Pranayama is an ancient technique of diaphragmatic breathing, usually through the nose, that originates from yogic practices in India. It involves controlling your breathing in different styles and lengths. More recently it has gained popularity in the Western world due to the many health benefits that come from a pranayama practice.
Patanjali in the Ashtanga Yoga Sutras collected the 8 steps you must follow to release suffering and thus achieve enlightenment, pranayama is the 4th.
MEANING OF THE WORD PRANAYAMA: CONSCIOUS BREATHING
Prana: Energy or Breath. Prana is a constantly moving force that is present in every aspect of creation, without prana there would be no existence since all living and inert beings exist thanks to prana.
Sources that feed prana:
Ayama: means expansion of vital energy and also control.
This is why pranayama means expansion or control of breathing. It is the process of expansion in which the body’s energy is activated and raised to a higher frequency. That is, through breath control, you can increase and control your energy or internal strength.
“When prana moves, Chitta (the mind) moves. When prana is quiet, Chitta is also quiet. By this stillness (of prana) the yogi attains calm. Therefore, Vayu (air) must be controlled.”
A pranayama cycle has three phases:
- Inhalation control: puraka
- Exhalation control: rechaka
- Breath retention: kumbhaka
Los Gurus han observado en animales que aquellos que tienen una respiración corta viven menos que aquellos que tienen una respiración más larga. Generalmente las personas tienen entre 12 y 17 respiraciones por minuto, pero el objetivo de un yogi es reducir las respiraciones a unas 8 por minuto.
Natural breathing is unconscious and is handled with the back of the brain while yogic breathing is conscious and we manage it with the frontal area.
The benefits of yogic breathing or prananama depend on the specific exercise that is practised, as some are stimulants such as Bhastrika Pranayama, or purifying/relaxing like Bhramari or to bring clarity and clear to the front of the brain as Kapalbhati.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF PRACTISING PRANAYAMA?
The main objective is to focus the mind on the concrete exercise, so your mind is 100% present; as well as activating different areas of the brain, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and also cleaning the nadis or energy channels (Several nadis together for the chakras). Pranayama exercises can give you energy, calm you down, or cleanse you energetically.
HOW TO PRACTISE THEM?
Pranayama exercises are recommended to practice at dawn and dusk when the energy is conducive to this.
In the morning it is advisable to do it on an empty stomach and we can practice vitalizing exercises, which give us the energy to start the day. It can be practised after our practice of asanas (yoga postures) and shatkarma (purifications) and before meditation.
At sunset we can practice calming or relaxing exercises that help us clear the mind and improve the quality of sleep, here it is also important to have an empty stomach, so we will practice it at least 4 hours after having eaten.
It is important to be consistent in your routine and practice in the same place and at the same time each day.
Normally the exercises are performed in a sitting position with the legs crossed, the back, neck and head straight, aligning all the chakras.
- Improves cognitive ability
- Increases lung capacity
- Reduces anxiety
- Purifies the Nadis and unblocks the circulation of energy through our body
- Emotional regulation
- Brings calm and serenity
- Improves memory
- Fasting to meditation by clearing the mind and focusing it on the breath
- Increases blood circulation
It is important to know that each exercise has its contraindications, so if you suffer from heart problems, or hypertension, you are pregnant, you have the rule or any type of disease or condition inform yourself well before performing any of these exercises.
EXERCISES: *Refenrence: Vinyasa Yogashala School, Rishikesh
NADI SHODHANA PRANAYAMA –
Nadi shodhana is the first pranayama described in the classical yogic texts. The word Nadi means ’emery channel’ and shodhan means ‘to cleanse’ or ‘to purify. Therefore, nadi shodhan is a practice whereby the Pranic channels are purified and regulated. It’s a balancing and harmonizing practice of Prana.
Preparatory Practice –
• Sit in any comfortable meditative posture
• Keep your head and spine upright
• Practice yogic breathing for sometime
• Adopt Nasagra Mudra with the right hand
• Place the left hand on the knee in Jnana Mudra
• Close the right nostril
• Inhale and Exhale through the left nostril 5 times
• After 5 Breaths close the left and repeat this from the right nostril
• At the end relax your hand and breath 5 times through both nostrils together
Technique 2 –
• Practice Nasikagrah gesture
• Close the right nostril with your thumb then Inhale from the left nostril
• Then close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale from the right nostril, with the right nostril Inhale
and Exhale from the left nostril
• This is one round of Nadi Shodhan, you can repeat this practice for few times
• Make sure your nostrils are clean from mucus and polluted particles.
• No retention for Benninger practice
• No bandha practice without preparation with this breath
• Hold your right elbow with your left-hand palm if needed
• You can also adopt veerasana sitting position to give rest to your right hand on the right knee
• Practice 3 to 5 minutes minimum for better results
• Your breath sound is minimum when you practice this
• Best time to do is morning sunrise, although you can do it any time of the day
• One should not practice suffering from cold, flu or fever
• Kumbhak and Bandha are not recommended for beginners.
• People suffering from asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure or any chronic disease will not do
retaining or bandha
• People who are too much introverted or depressed should not do long practice and can do it
with open eyes.
Benefits of Nadi Shodhana
• It increases awareness of sensitivity to the breath in the nostrils
• It gives pronounced balancing of the breath and the brain hemispheres
• It is also called balancing or harmonising pranayama
• It has calming effects and relieves anxiety, improves concentration and stimulates Ajna chakra
• It can be practised in any disease or disorder due to its balancing effects.
BHRAMARI PRANAYAMA (Humming Bee Breath)
The word ‘bhramar’ means ‘bee’. This practice is so-called because the practitioner imitates the same deep low pitched humming sound as that of the bee. It is used in nada yoga to awaken awareness of inner psychic sounds.
• Sit in any comfortable meditative asana, with eyes closed, spine upward, shoulder relax and
arms on the knees in jnan mudra.
• Raise the arms sideways and bend the elbows bringing the hands to the ears, use index or
middle fingers to plug the ears or the flaps of the ears may be pressed without inserting the
• Being the awareness of the centre of the head where Ajna chakra is located and keeping the body
• Inhale through the nose.
• Exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep steady sound like that of the
• The humming should be smooth, even and continuous for the duration of the exhalation. This is one round
• Repeat the practice 5 to 10 rounds according to the practitioner’s comfort.
Practice Note –
• Hand gestures can be done with different hand positions of closed ears.
• No retention and bandha for beginners and people suffering from heart issues, chronic diseases, or mental issues.
Contra Indication –
• It should not be performed while lying down
• People should not practice for severe ear infections.
• It relieves stress and cerebral tension.
• It helps in alleviating anger, anxiety and insomnia.
• It increases the healing capacity of the body
• It strengthens and improves the voice
• It induces a meditative state by harmonizing the mind and directing the awareness inward.
• The vibration of the humming sound creates a soothing effect on the mind and nervous system.
KAPALBHATI (Frontal brain cleansing Breath) –
The Sanskrit word Kapal means cranium or forehead and bhati means light or splendour and also perception or knowledge. Hence, Kapalbhati is the practice that brings a state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. It is also cleansing practice and is therefore listed among the shatkarmas.
• Sit in a comfortable meditative Asana with hands resting on the knees.
• Relax the body and close your eyes.
• Take a deep inhale and start an active exhale from the abdomen.
• Keep your inhalation passive and exhalation active each time.
• Keep the abdomen muscles moving in this breath.
• Practice 10 rapid breadths in succession and then return to the normal breathing.
Practice Note –
• The rapid breathing should be from the abdomen. Shoulders and face should remain relaxed.
• You can do 10 to 40 active exhales in one round.
• Do as per your capacity and try to gradually increase it to 100 breaths in one round.
• Kapalbhati should not be practised by those suffering from heart disease / high blood pressure.
• Do not practice in Vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia and gastric ulcer.
• Do not practice during menstrual or pregnancy.
• It cleans the nostrils and pushes mucus and impure particles out.
• Purify our two important Nadis and removes sensory distractions.
• It is a good practice for respiratory disorders.
• It energizes the mind for mental work and removes sleepiness.
This article is to explain a little about what pranayama is, what it consists of and what its benefits are, but it is not advisable to practice them without the guidance and supervision of a specialist. If you want to try these techniques and experience the improvements that pranayama can bring to your life, look for a qualified teacher to guide you in learning these ancestral techniques.
If you wanna get into the meditation world have a look at our Yoga and Meditation Retreats: https://www.molinodelzegriecoretreat.com/yoga-meditation/