To awaken, sit calmly, letting each breath clear your mind and open your heart.
– Gautam BuddhaPranayama is a Sanskrit word that combines the words ‘Prana’ (life energy) and ‘Ayama’ (stretch, restrain, or regulate). It is an ancient yogic practice that involves breathing and life force management. Yoga’s fundamental component, Pranayama, consists of breathing techniques and patterns that improve physical and mental well-being. When practiced in combination with physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dhyana), Pranayama provides abundant health benefits. The goal of Pranayama is, in fact, to bring together your mind, body, and soul. Lately, I have decided to go back to the basics of yoga. My habits had been made a place in my practice: I repeat mantras in a certain way, breath in a certain rhythm, and so on. I have decided to rediscover yoga again as a beginner. If you, too, are excited to embark on this rediscovering yoga journey, please stick with me till the end of the blog!
Types of PranayamaAmong many variations of Pranayama, I will go over five of the variations that I believe you should include in your daily routine to gain the most benefit.
Breath of FireBreath of Fire is strong pranayama, similar to Kapalbhati Pranayama but slightly different, also known as Agni Pran. Breath of Fire is a rhythmic breath with equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale, with no pause between them (approximately 2-3 cycles per second), no deeper than sniffing. It’s done by pumping the naval point towards the spine on the exhale and releasing the naval out on the inhale. It’s practiced through the nostrils with the mouth and eyes closed. When done correctly, you should feel you can go indefinitely and your energetic field will quickly change. This pranayama technique brings many benefits such as:
- Releases toxins and deposits from the lungs, mucous linings, blood vessels, and other cells.
- Expands the lung capacity and increases vital strength.
- Strengthens the nervous system to resist stress.
- Repairs the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
- Strengthens the navel chakra.
- Increases physical endurance and prepares you to act effectively.
- Adjusts the subtle psycho-electromagnetic field of the aura so that the blood becomes energized.
- Reduces addictive impulses for drugs, smoking, and bad foods.
- Increases oxygen delivery to the brain, facilitating a focused, intelligent, and neutral state of mind.
- Boosts the immune system and may help prevent many diseases.
- Promotes synchronization of the biorhythms of the body’s systems
Alternate Nostril BreathingAlternate nostril breathing, also known as anulom vilom Pranayama, is a specific type of regulated breathing in which one nostril is held while the other is breathed from. This cycle is repeated and reversed. This pranayama technique is believed to help anger management, focus and mood stabilization, and respiratory & cardiovascular health.
Bhramari PranayamaBhramari Pranayama, also known as humming bee breathing, gets its name from the bhramari, or black Indian bee because the exhaling sound resembles the humming sound. This form of Pranayama is one of the best breathing exercises for lowering blood pressure, calming nerves, and alleviating stress.
Ujjayi PranayamaAlso known as ocean breath, this breathing technique involves a soft hissing sound during inhalation that allows you to calm your mind by focusing on your breath. This form of Pranayama sharpens the focus of your mind and can help cure the thyroid and reduce snoring.
Kapalbhati PranayamaKapalbhati is a Sanskrit word made up of two words ‘Kapala’ meaning skull, and ‘bhati’ meaning shining or illuminating is a breathing technique best known to strengthen the functions of all abdominal organs. This technique involves passive inhalation and active exhalation.
Bhastrika PranayamaBhastrika pranayama is a powerful breathing technique used to strengthen the lungs, burn fat, increase physical and mental abilities, and clear the windpipe. The practice of Pranayama allows you to control your breath but especially your vital energy. There are many breathing exercises with incalculable well done that is worth practicing, but here is what I rediscovered:
- I start all my pranayamas by exhaling completely.
- By consciously opening the nostrils, I automatically inhale more regularly.
- When I inhale, I concentrate on ambient smells to stimulate the olfactory zone at the top of my nose. This intensifies the airflow and thus also intensifies the absorption of Prana. “Smell opens the door to the deepest layers of the mind.”
- When I exhale, I try to make my breath «disappear». I exhale very slowly and almost imperceptibly. I sometimes use the “OM” sound that extends the exhalation time of my breath.
- On inhale, I fill my stomach, then the ribs, and then the lungs until my clavicles rise, then I focus on the spine and bring my energy and consciousness rising up along it. These elements can be applied transversely to many pranayamas.
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What is Kapalbhati Pranayama?
Kapalbhati, also known as the skull shining breathing technique is a very powerful breathing exercise intended to strengthen the functions of all abdominal organs. This breathing technique also increases the metabolic rate and aids in weight loss.
Which Pranayama is best for stress?
There are various yoga techniques that can cure stress. Alternate nostril breathing, bhramari pranayama, and ujjayi pranayama are among many pranayama techniques that are the best for stress relief.
How many minutes should we do Pranayama?
Pranayama is an excellent yoga technique that benefits the overall health of the human body. It also aids in the treatment of breathing or respiratory problems. The best time to perform pranayama is early in the morning on an empty stomach. However, it can also be performed after the meal. For the best benefits, it should be practiced for 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Should we do Pranayama daily?
Pranamaya is most effective when practiced for at least 45 minutes every day. This breathing technique, when practiced on a daily basis improves lung functioning and enhances cognitive performance.
Which Pranayama is the best?
There are different pranayama techniques, the most important of which are Anulom-Vilom, bhramari, ujjayi, kapalbhati, and bhastrika pranayama.