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~~~ Breathe ~~~

The Universe is taking care of everything else.

What is Pranayama?

"Prana" means life force or breath, and "ayama" means to restrain or control.

The beautiful shapes and impressive contortions of the asanas may be the most noticeable element of hatha yoga, but yoga masters will tell you they’re hardly the point of yoga practice. According to yoga philosophy, the postures are merely preludes to deeper states of meditation that lead us toward enlightenment, where our minds grow perfectly still and our lives grow infinitely big.

Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling the breath, lies at the heart of yoga. It has a mysterious power to soothe and revitalize a tired body, a flagging spirit, or a wild mind. The ancient sages taught that prana, the vital force circulating through us, can be cultivated and channeled through a panoply of breathing exercises. In the process, the mind is calmed, rejuvenated, and uplifted. Pranayama serves as an important bridge between the outward, active practices of yoga—like asana—and the internal, surrendering practices that lead us into deeper states of meditation.

Where to Perform Pranayama yoga?

Pranayama techniques are best practiced while sitting on the floor on a folded blanket. However; any other posture will do provided the back is kept long from the base of the spine to the neck and perpendicular to the floor. Bad and poorly performed posture will lead to shallow breathing and low endurance. One must empty the bladder and bowels before starting pranayama yoga.

When to Perform Pranayama?

Pranayama yoga must be performed in empty stomach. You can do Pranayama 3 to 4 hours after meals. The most suitable and useful time for Pranayama is the morning hours on an empty stomach and the body and brain are still free. However, if morning is unsuitable, pranayama may be practiced after sunset, when the air is cool and pleasant. The place suitable for all kinds of Yoga must be clean and calm.

A few Types of the most popular Pranayama

Nadi Sodhana - Shodhana means cleansing -- so Nadi Shodhana means channel cleaning.Calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right hemispheres, promotes clear thinking

Shitali Pranayama - Shitali has a cooling effect on the body. This technique is very useful during the hot months of the year. They also calm the nervous system. Shitali can alleviate nausea and the symptoms of asthma.

Ujjayi Pranayama - The Ujjayi technique is a very soothing technique which can be applied to sectional breathing or used while holding Yoga postures. This type of breathing helps to increase the lung capacity (and more oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream), energy levels, and also achieves a state of calmness and mental clarity.

Kapalabhati Pranayama - Kapal means forehead and bhati means shining. It enhances the intake of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide from the body improving the functions of the lungs and repertory organs. It also has positive effects on the digestive system and endocronine gland helping the stomach, intestines, pancreas and liver. 

Digra Pranayama - Practicing Dirga or Deerga,meanings, “slow,” “deep,” “long,” and “complete.” teaches you to breathe fully and completely. Learning to breathe deeply will increase your oxygen supply, which, in turn, will help to decrease stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, focusing on your body during Three-Part Breath brings awareness to the present moment and calms your mind.

Bhastrika Pranayama - This pranayama increases the fire in the body. In this type of pranayama, the diaphragm movement is used for the internal fire creating physical, Pranic and psychic heat. Bhastrika constitutes as a very powerful pranayama.

Bahya Pranayama – Bhaya means outside as to indicate that the breath is kept outside the body during practice. Bahya is a miraculous practice for stomach organs, hernia, diabedies, uterus and prostrate problems.

Bhramari Pranayama - Bhramri is known as the bee breath. Bhramri helps to clear and strengthen the respiratory system and improve vocal resonance. It has a calming effect on the body that uplifts the spirit, and clears and invigorates the mind.

Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama - Anuloma means with the natural order and Viloma means going against the order. This technique helps to balance and harmonize the functioning of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It has a soothing effect on the nervous system and calms the mind. Because exhalations are longer than inhalation, it encourages the removal of state air and toxins.

Agnisar Kriya - Agni meaning Fire, Sar meaning Essence and Kriya meaning Action. This cleansing exercise strengthens the fire within our body that is critical to the digestive system. While this exercise can be practiced by everybody, people with specific problems like high blood pressure, internal ulcers, hyperthyroidism, chronic diarrhea and heart diseases should refrain from it.

Instructions on How to Perform Pranayama

Nadi Sodhana:

Sit down in a comfortable place assuming a cross legged position. Now use your thumb (right hand) to close the right side of your nose. Inhale deeply using the left nostril. Now close the left nostril and exhale using the right one In the same way, now with the left nostril still closed, inhale using the right nostril and exhale with the left one. You can continue doing this exercise for around 10 - 15 times. 

Shitali Pranayama:

Sheetal also means cool, and this pranayama technique will help you achieve the same. To perform shitali pranayama, be seated in a comfortable position. Cross your legs and take five to six deep breaths to get yourself prepared.

Now open your mouth in a "o" shape, placing the tongue to the bottom lip and curling the tongue if possible. Start to inhale through the mouth. When you exhale close the mouth and exhale through your nose.

This can be repeated five to ten times. 

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi means the ocean and this pranayama is about mimicking the oceanic sound or the sound of the waves.

To do this, be seated in a comfortable position crossing your legs. Now start to inhale and exhale deeply using your mouth.

While doing this, constrict your throat as if something is choking it when you exhale and inhale the air. This will produce a sound similar to the ocean when you breathe.

Now close your mouth and start to breathe using your nose, but maintain the same tone to your throat so you still continue to make the same sound as your breath.

You can repeat this prayanama breathing exercise for about ten to fifteen times. 

Kapalabhati Pranayama:

To perform the kapalabhati pranayama technique, sit in a comfortable position crossing your legs. Perform two to three deep inhales and exhales.

Now inhale deeply and exhale forcefully drawing all the air out. Your belly should be drawn in, as you exhale.

When you inhale, let it happen passively without you making any effort to inhale as the belly goes back to normal position.

Exhale forcefully again and continue doing this for about 20 to 30 times.

Dirga Pranayama - Three Part Breathing

The dirga pranayama is a bit different from other types as it involves lying down on your back instead of being in a seated position. This technique involves very deep inhalation and exhalation.

To perform this panayama, lie down on your back and close your eyes. Breathe normally and then slowly take deep breaths, relaxing your body.

Now inhale a lot of air in slowly to fill your belly up. Your belly should rise up like a balloon. Hold this position for a few seconds and exhale drawing the belly inwards ensure there is no air left.

In the second step, inhale deeply to fill up the belly. Inhale a bit more to fill up air in your rib cage. When you exhale, exhale air from your rib cage and then from your belly.

In the third step, inhale deeply to fill up your belly and rib cage with air. Inhale a bit more to fill up your heart center (area around the heart) with air. When you exhale, exhale air from the heart center, then the rib cage and then the belly.

Repeat the whole process for five to six times

Bhastrika Pranayama

Sit in a comfortable position. Keep the body, neck and head erect. Close the mouth. Next, inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith. Constantly dilate and contract. When you practice this Pranayama a hissing sound is produced. You should start with rapid expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required number of expulsions is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation is done very slowly. The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika. Rest a while after one round is over by taking a few normal breaths. This will give you relief and make you fit for starting the second round.

Do three rounds daily in the morning. You can do another three rounds in the evening also. Bhastrika is a powerful exercise. A combination of Kapalbhati and Ujjayi makes up Bhastrika. Practice Kapalbhati and Ujjayi to start with. Then you will find it very easy to do Bhastrika.

Bhaya Pranayama

Sit comfortably but erect; either in Sukhasana or Padmasana. If either of these is not possible; you might use a chair with straight back. Either way, keep your back straight and eyes closed.

Breathe in through nose forcefully – You’ll feel your diaphragm expand and move down thus forcing abdomen out, this will be followed by your chest expanding, followed by rising up of collar bone. At this time, there is no more space for air and your lungs are fully expanded.

Hold your breath for a fraction of second and breathe out through your nostrils forcefully, but uniformly. Collar bone will drop first, followed by chest deflating and abdomen getting pulled in with deflation of diaphragm.

At this point, hold your breath out and apply three physical ‘locks’ known as ‘bandhas’ in given order to retain this position.

Repeat as many times as comfortable while remaining within the suggested number of repetitions.

Bhramari Pranayama

Sit comfortably. Cover your ears by pressing tragus with the help of thumbs of your hands. Place your index fingers on the forehead and let the remaining 3 fingers close your eyes. Inhale through both the nostrils, taking a real slow deep breath.

Keep your mouth closed and begin slowly exhaling, making humming sound of a bee like “hmmmm”.

While practicing Bhramari keep reciting “OM” mentally and concentrate your mind on Agnya Chakra (between eyebrows).

Agnisar Kriya Pranayama

Sit in Padmasana and keep the hands on the knees in a comfortable position. Close the eyes slightly and focus on the mind with normal breathing. Exhale slow, deep and stable breathe. Stop the breath outside. Stretch both the hands straight and keep them on the knees with slight pressure. Contract and expand the stomach. Try to touch the navel deep inside the stomach. Keep the stomach and hands normal before inhaling.

Take deep, stable and slow breathe.

The above mentioned 9 steps completes one cycle of Agnisar pranayama. In one cycle you must contract and expand the stomach at least 10 times. Gradually, increase the number to 20 and then 30.

Initially, you can practice it for 5 times and then slowly increase is it up to 15 cycles. After accomplishing the cycles successfully, breathe normally, rest for some time and then do shavasana.

Viloma Pranayama

Viloma Pranayama involves paused breathing at regular intervals and can be divided into two stages. The first stage is called 'paused inhalation' and the second stage is called 'paused exhalation'. Let's look at these stages in detail:

Viloma Paused Inhalation:

Lie down in a comfortable position and try to relax. Breath deeply, but normally

Now inhale for 2 to 3 seconds and pause. Hold your breath for two seconds and then restart inhalation. Pause inhalation again after 2 to seconds. Inhale again. Repeat this process until the lungs feel full of air

Exhale now, slowly, till you feel empty of air

Viloma Paused Exhalation: The paused exhalation is the exact opposite of the inhalation process. In this case, you inhale deeply and normally without interruption, but exhale with regular pauses. 

Anuloma Pranayama

Just like Viloma Anuloma is about alternate nostril breathing. In this case, the inhalation and exhalation is done with one nostril blocked and the other partially open. Some variations of the yoga are granular anuloma.

This type of pranayama is particularly useful in cleansing the nasal passages and creating calmness within.

What is the Importance of Pranayama?

Practice of pranayama yoga has been reported to be beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma, stuttering and reducing signs of oxidative stress. Pranayama techniques are also effective for depression cure. Practice of prayanama develops a steady mind, strong will-power and sound judgment. In addition regular pranayama helps extends life and enhance perception

In old age, the respiratory function decreases due to the contraction of the air cells of the lungs, which thereby takes in less oxygen. Prayanama will help to normalize their size and make the red corpuscles circulate in all parts of the body, infusing life and vigor throughout. Through regular practice even old people can delay the ageing process.

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