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Pranayama

 

Prāṇāyāma (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम prāṇāyāma) is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prāṇa or breath” or, “extension of the life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “ayāma”, to extend or draw out. (Not ‘restrain, or control’ as is often translated from ‘yam’ instead of ‘ayāma’). The origins of this yogic discipline lies in ancient Bharat (India) and what is known as present day Hinduism.

Breath is the life force that sustains our life. Human body is physical manifestation of one’s consciousness and in that, primarily, Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) is densely concentrated with abundant consciousness. So, all the yoga practices always revolve around CNS with an intention being to grow ones awareness towards consciousness. Kriya Pranayama practices focus on getting the glowing awareness of main three Nadis (Ida, Pingala & Sushumna) and seven Chakras (Mooladhara, Swadhistana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishudhi, Ajna & Sahasrara) and opening them for the free flow of Prana. There are variations in the techniques. But, all have the same goal “to get the realization of the self”.

We can practice pranayama in different methods. There are about 50 different types of pranayamas described in the Vedas. Below we list eight most common and significant ones:

  • CHANDRABHEDAN
  • SURYABHEDAN
  • ANULOM-VILOM
  • BHASTRIKA
  • UJJAYI
  • SHEETALI
  • SHEETKARI
  • BHRAMARI

1.CHANDRABHEDAN

How to:-

  1. Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable position on the floor.
  2. Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
  3. Close your right nostril with right hand thumb.
  4. Inhale from the left nostril.
  5. Close the left nostril with the right hand index and middle fingers.
  6. Exhale from the right nostril.

This completes one round of Chandrabhedan pranayama. You can gradually do up to 20 rounds.

Benefit:-
Chandrabhedan cools the body and cures heartburn.

2.SURYABHEDAN

How to:-

  1. Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable posture.
  2. Close your left nostril with your index and middle finger of the right hand.
  3. Inhaling from your right nostril.
  4. Close the right nostril with your right hand thumb.
  5. Exhale through the left nostril.

This completes one round of Suryabhedan pranayama. You can gradually do up to 20 rounds.

Benefits:- 

  • Increases body heat and energy levels
  • Improves digestion
  • Purifies blood
  • Delays ageing.
  • Contraindications

3.ANULOM-VILOM

How to:-

  1. Sit in a comfortable balanced meditative pose.
  2. Use the right hand thumb to close your right nostril.
  3. Inhale from the left nostril.
  4. Close your left nostril with your right hand’s index and middle fingers
  5. Exhale from the right nostril.
  6. Do the reverse: inhale with the right nostril.
  7. Close your right nostril with your right hand thumb.
  8. Exhale with the left nostril.

This is one round of anulom-vilom pranayama.

Benefits:-

  • Balancing body temperature
  • Relieving stress
  • Cleansing the nadis in your body (Nadi Sudhi or purification of channels)
  • Improving blood circulation
  • Promoting longevity.

Remember:-
While practising this pranayama, you must breathe into your lungs and not into your stomach. It can be done the year round and by every one. For practicing higher pranayama its suggested to get Nadi Suddhi (purification of channels). One can achieve Nadi Suddhi by regular practice of Anulom Vilom pranayama.

4.BHASTRIKA

How to:-

  1. Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable position on the floor.
  2. Keep the back straight and shoulder muscles relaxed.
  3. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and bring your right elbow to the level of right shoulder.
  4. Close your eyes. Inhale and exhale through left nostril—first slowly, then a little faster

Do the above steps about 20 – 25 times.
Take a long breath in and retain it for as long as possible
This is one round of bhastrika pranayama. Now, repeat this round by closing your left nostril and breathing through your right nostril.

Benefits:-

  • Releases toxins from the body
  • Reduces excess fat
  • Enhances digestion
  • Regulates the nervous system
  • Purifies blood.

Contradictions:-
Avoid practicing bhastrika pranayama if you suffer from hypertension, heart/lung complications or hernia. Weak persons [people with some illness or a low stamina] should avoid doing this pranayama too often.

5.UJJAYI

How to:-

  1. Sit erect in a comfortable posture.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through both nostrils.
  3. Hold your breath for as long as possible.
  4. Exhale slowly with a whispering sound, contracting the air passage.

This is a single round of ujjayi pranayama. You can start by doing 2 – 3 rounds.

Benefits:-

  • Strengthens the vocal cord
  • Stimulates the thyroid gland
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Eases diseases of the lungs, chest and throat.

Contradictions:-
Avoid doing this pranayama if you suffer from cardiac problems.

6.SHEETALI

How to:-

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes and relax your whole body with normal breathing
  3. Put the tongue on the lower lip and try to roll the tongue.
  4. Inhale deeply from the mouth.
  5. Retain your breath for as long as possible.
  6. Close the mouth slowly and exhale through the nose.

This is one round of sheetali pranayama. You can start by doing 2 – 3 rounds, and gradually go up to 15 rounds.

Benefits:-

  • Cools the body
  • Cures acidity and hypertension
  • Relieves indigestion and disorders of the bile
  • Improves health of eyes and skin
  • Cures tonsillitis.

Contradictions:-
This pranayama is not recommended during winters. People suffering from a heavy cold must avoid shitali pranayama.

7.SHEETKARI

How to:-

  1. Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable posture on the floor
  2. Keep the back straight and shoulders relaxed
  3. Place hands on the knees, fingers relaxed and eyes closed
  4. Join lower and upper teeth
  5. Fix front portion of the tongue against the front teeth and the rest of the tongue on the palate
  6. Separate the lips and inhale from the mouth making a chilling sound
  7. Retain your breath for as long as possible
  8. Exhale through both nostrils

This is one round of sheetkari pranayama.

Benefits:-

Sheetkari pranayama cools the body and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

Contradictions:-
Avoid this pranayama if you suffer from low blood pressure.

8.BHRAMARI

How to:-

  1. Sit in a meditative pose or in a comfortable position on the floor.
  2. Keep your back straight, shoulders muscles relaxed and eyes closed.
  3. Close both your ears with the index fingers of both hands.
  4. Raise your elbows to the level of your shoulders.
  5. Inhale deeply.
  6. Retain your breath for as long as possible.
  7. Exhale slowly making a buzzing sound like that of a bee.

Benefits:-

  • Calms the body
  • Relieves stress
  • Makes the voice pleasant and melodious
  • Strengthens vocal cords
  • Cures diseases of the throat
  • Increases concentration.

Remember:-
For best results, practice this pranayama at night or early morning.

“The more you control your breathing, the longer you will you live. Pranayama also helps you stay healthy and young for longer.”

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