Pranayama

The word prana is a combination of syllables, pra and na. Prana denotes constancy; it is a force in constant motion. Prana is the vital life force and pranayama is the process by which the internal pranic store is increased. Pranayama is comprised of the words prana and ayama, which means ‘pranic capacity or length. It is not merely breath control, but a technique through which the quantity of prana in the body is activated to a higher frequency. When prana moves, chitta {the mental force} moves. When prana is without movement, chitta is without movement. By this {steadiness of prana} the yogi attains steadiness and should thus restrain the vayu {air}

It is important to practice pranayama on an empty stomach during the sandhi kala {joining times}, which are the junctions between darkness and daylight: dawn and dusk. To do pranayama,  sit facing east or north in a comfortable cross-legged posture such as svastikasana {pose for easy awareness} or padmasana {lotus pose}. Make sure your head, neck and chest are in a straight line, keeping the spine stretched. In general, pranayama should not be done during menstruation or pregnancy or by anyone with fever, bronchitis, and pleurisy with effusion, pneumonia or a recent history of heart attack. Also, a person with highly metastasized cancer should not perform pranayama nor should they while undergoing chemo-or radiation therapy. Nor should a person suffering from severe psychological conditions such as grief, sadness, anger or suicidal depression engage in pranayama. There should be a gap of at least one hour before or after bathing, eating or sexual activity and doing pranayama.


Bhastrika Pranayama

Also known as bellows breath

  • Bhastrika is the name of the pranayama which imitates the action of the bhastra or ‘bellows’ and fans the internal fire, heating the physical and subtle bodies. Start with 20 breaths {this is 1 round}, rest for a few minutes, then 20 more breaths. Maximum of 50 breaths for 2 rounds
  • Contraindications high blood pressure, glaucoma, hydrocele, hernia or ascites. Do only in moderation for pitta conditions.


Kapalabhati

Also known as Cleansing Breath- 100

  • Kapalabhati – a dynamic and energzing purification breath that clears and cleanses lungs and nasal passages. Kapala means ‘head’, bhati means ‘shining’.
  • Cleanses the lungs. Strengthens the nervous system, tones the digestive organs, thereby improving agni and appetite. Keeps forehead cool, brings alertness, light and consciousness to the body. Removes sensory distractions from the mind. Cleanses the blood and clears the pranic channels without creating heat.
  • During this practice, the focus is on the exhalation: the inhalation happens naturally, without effort. To begin, from a seated position, expel the breath through the nose as the navel dynamically draws in towards the spine, slightly contracting the abdominal muscles. Let the inhale fill the lungs naturally, without effort. The inhalation is spontaneous and involves no effort while the exhalation is strong and active. It is important to begin and end gently
  • Contraindications detached retina, glaucoma, migraine headache, high or low blood pressure, heart problems, nose bleeds, hernia, ascites, ulcers, recent history of epilepsy or recent abdominal surgery. Anyone with hypertension should only do this pranayama with great care. If vata individuals experience vertigo, discontinue


Anuloma Viloma

Also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing

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’.

  • Viloma paused inhalation
  • Lie down in a comfortable position and try to relax, breathing normally. Now inhale for 2 to 3 seconds and pause. Hold your breath for two seconds and restart inhalation. Pause inhalation again after 2 seconds and inhale again. Repeat this 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.
  • Anuloma Pranayama is about alternate nostril breathing. In this case, the inhalation and exhalation is done with one nostril blocked and the other partially open.
  • Start with 20 rounds. One round is
  • Inhale into 1 nostril, exhale out the other, inhale into other nostril, exhale out original nostril.
  • Contraindications chest pain, extremely high blood pressure or recent history of epilepsy


Agni Sar

  • One round is the single breath with the 10 abdominal movements. Perform only 1 round.


Bhramari

Also known as Bumble Bee Breath- 7 times

Bharmari means bee. The “Bee’s breath” soothes the nerves and calms the mind. During this practice the breath makes a steady, low pitched ‘hmmmm” sound at the back of the throat on the exhale {like the humming of a bee}. Helps calm the mind and allow one to feel centered. It helps with throat ailments, relieves stress, reduces blood pressure, soothes the nerves and induces good sleep. And stimulates the pineal glands. This practice is best done on an empty stomach. Sit in a comfortable position with an erect spine. Close the lips gently, keeping the teeth from touching, and bring the tip of the tongue to the space behind the upper front teeth. Close the ears with the thumbs and close the eyes, placing the ring, middle and little finger on the eyelids. Then, place the index fingers above each eyebrow. Bring the neck straight and take a deep inhalation through both nostrils. Then pull the chin in and down towards the chest, slowly exhale while making a steady, low-pitch “hummm sound at the back of the throat like a humming bee. Then, release the fingers, lift the head, return to normal breathing and observe any changes that have occurred. Let the vibrations fill your entire head and extend to the body, becoming one with the sound. Repeat this practice 7 times the 1st week, 14 the 2nd week, 17 the 3rd and then continue with 17 total. Once you are proficient in this practice, you may take the tone up a pitch. When you have reached this stage, you may use the sound both on the inhale and exhale. Do twice daily morning and evening. Contraindications chest pain, extremely high blood pressure, recent history or epilepsy or ear infection.


Ujjayi

Also known as Conch Breath or Breath of Victory

Through the practice of Ujjayi, we extend the length of our life through slowing the process of breathing and extending each breath over a longer period of time. In most of us, the normal rate of breathing is between sixteen to eighteen times per minute. With the practice of Ujjayi Pranayama, this slows to one-half or even one-third of this number. The quality of life improves through Ujjayi Pranayama. The system of nadis that move prana through the body is also cleansed and refreshed through this practice. After Full Yogic Breath, Ujjayi is the next pranayama to practice and master as it is found as a component within many other practices of pranayama. It is a breathing technique that can be practiced twenty-four hours a day to improve the quality of life, Promotes mental clarity and focus, Activates the thymus, thyroid, parathyroid, and pineal glands. Enhances memory, gives strength, improves skin color and complexion and brings calmness and softness to the organs and to the body as a whole. Do 7 rounds of Ujjayi Pranayama.  Can add 1 round per week, up to 17 rounds only. Do not do more than 17 rounds.

Contraindications chest pain, high blod pressure, recent history of epilepsy.


Sitali and Sitakari

Also known as Cooling Breath

Sitali and Sitakari Pranayama are practiced to cool the body and are recommended for those with pitta constitution or pitta elevation. An invaluable practice in hot weather and for high-pitta conditions, including over-exposure to direct sunlight. When there has been great exertion or excitement, these breaths will help to cool the body and return the blood pressure to normal. Cooling breath can be used to calm pitta-type emotions such as anger, hate and hot tempered tantrums. This practice is best done on an empty stomach. If one is unable to roll the tongue, the alternate method of gently pressing the tongue against the back of the teeth and allowing the breath to pass over the sides of the tongue is substituted for the rolled tongue. When the tongue is rolled this is Sitali, when the tongue is pressed to the back of the teeth, this is Sitakari.

Sitting in Padmasana or comfortable pose, drop the chin downward and extend the curled tongue out of the mouth, drawing the breath up and through it as if sucking breath in a straw. Breathe into and fill the belly. Once the inhalation is complete, retain the breath, and lift your chin so that the head is again upright.

Exhale gently. As you complete the exhalation, begin again.

Start with 7 rounds


Utgeet

  • Hari OM
  • Do 7 rounds of Utgeet Pranayama

Posture for Pranayama

Pranayama is best practiced while sitting on the floor on a folded blanket. The postures suitable are:

Siddhasana {Accomplished}, Swastikasana {Crossed Leg} and Sukhasana {Easy}, Vajarasana {Thunderbolt}, Virasana {Hero}, Baddha Konasana {Cobbler} and Padmasana {Lotus}. It is important to keep the back erect from the base of the spine to the neck and perpendicular to the floor.