When one gets mastery over asanas one should move to prayanamas, the next stage in the path of yoga. Prayanama is the science of breath. Breath is the external manifestation of prana, the vital force. As it is a known fact that life revolves round breath it is very important to strengthen and regularize it. The control of prana means control of the mind. The vibration of prana produces thoughts in the mind. The process of control must be slow and gradual. The process by which the prana is controlled through regulation of the external breath is termed prayanama. The word prayanama is made up of two words prana and ayama. Prana has a wide meaning. It means breath, life, vitality, wind and energy. It is also used for the soul. Ayama means length. Prayanama, thus means control over the length of the breath. Practising prayanama is a method of making prana or the breath of life strong and thus add to the general vitality and strength of the body. The respiratory system: the nostrils, the nasal passage, the wind pipe, the membranes, the lungs and the diaphragm are the body parts which are mainly affected by prayanama. Therefore, prayanama should not be mastered in a hurry. Practising prayanama in a wrong way may affect the nerves and the respiratory system adversely. Maharshi Patanjali says, “exhale slowly then inhale and retain the breath, you will have a steady and calm mind.”

Prayanama also soothes the nervous system and slowly it reduces craving and helps in better concentration and consequently leads to the discovery of the divine fire within. One can hardly begin any spiritual progress without the practice of prayanama. Prayanama stimulates a good appetite, generates cheerfulness, provide a handsome figure, gives greater strength, courage, purity, enthusiasm, health vigour and a good concentration of mind. Bhastrika, kapalbhat, anulom vilom, bhramri are some of the famous and most effective prayanama.

There are hundreds of pranayama like mudra pranayam from where you take the breath from every part of the body. “mahat pranayama” “shwan pranayama” “naga pranayama etc. Let us consider the four major pranayamas.

  • Instruction for practising pranayama
  • The practice of pranayama is most suitable in the morning in a well-ventilated room. As prayanama needs deep concentration and attention, it is always better to practise it in a steady posture. After practicing asanas and medication, one should rest for 15 minutes and then practise pranayama or it can be done soon after one gets up, just before meditation. It makes the body light and meditation enjoyable.

    Correct posture is an important requisite for the practice of prayanama, a comfortable pose which can be continued for long time. The chest, neck and head must be in one vertical line. One should not bend on either side, no one should sit with a crooked body. Through regular practise mastery over the pose may come by itself. One should be regular in practice to get the maximum benefits of pranaymas. The body should be steady as with any or frequent movement in the body the mind is also disturbed; so one should be steady as a rock.

    One should always inhale and exhale slowly without making any sound. One can produce a little sound in pranayamas like bhastrika and kapal-bhati.

    A practitioner should always avoid fear, laziness and anger. Excessive or too little sleep and excessive eating or fasting should also be avoided.
    One should have at least 15 minutes daily and regular practice for several months to get the best results.
    One must avoid taking a bath immediately after the practice. Half-an-hour’s rest is advisable. Perspiration during practice should not be wiped off with towel. It should be rubbed with hands into the skin itself.

    Whenever one feels a little uneasy, depressed or dejected, one should practice pranayama. This will lead to new vigour, energy and strength. One will be elevated, rejuvenated and filled with joy. One can see the results only after the practice of a few days. The practice of pranayama before writing an essay, an article or appearing for an examination is very beneficial. One brings forth inspiring, powerful and original ideas.

  • PRANAYAMA – The art of yoga breathing
  • Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. From the yogic point of view, proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, to control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama is the science of breath control. It promotes proper breathing. It consists of a series of exercises especially intended to meet the body’s needs and keep it in vibrant health. Pranayam comes from the following words –
    Prana: “Life force” or “Life energy”
    Yama: “Discipline” or “control”
    Ayama: “Expansion” or “Extension”
    Through the practice of pranayama the balance of oxygen and carbon-di-oxide is attained.

    But life is full of stress. Because of our daily work, family or financial pressures, we tend to ignore our breathing. Thus it tends to be fast and shallow. The use of only a fraction of our lungs results in lack of oxygen and may lead to different complications. Heart diseases, sleep disorders and fatigue are some of the effects of oxygen starvation. Therefore, the negative energy of being restless and troubled leads to less prana inside the body. By practicing deep and systematic breathing through pranayama , we re-energize our body.

  • Benefits of pranayama
  • 1). Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We increase the capacity of our lungs and learn to breathe slowly and deeply, which is the right way.
    2). It reduces the toxins and body waste from within our body.
    3). It helps in our digestion. With the proper way of breathing our metabolism and health condition will start improving.
    4). It develops concentration and focus, fights away stress and relaxes the body. Controlling our breathing also results in serenity and peace of mind.
    5). It offers a better self-control.
    6). It leads to our spiritual journey with a relaxed body and mind.

  • Four popular forms of pranayama
  • 1. Bhastrika Pranayama
    “Bhastrika” is a Sanskrit word which means bellows. In this pranayama, the breathing pattern resembles the blowing of bellows. It is all about inhaling and exhaling completely, so that our body gets the maximum amount of oxygen. Following are the steps involved –

    1). Sit in vajrasana or padmasana with the spine erect.
    2). Place your hands on your knees. Feel relaxed. Focus on your breathing pattern.
    3). Inhale and exhale by expanding and compressing the chest vigorously like the bellows.
    4). While breathing in, your abdomen should not blow up. Reppeat the procedure 5 to 10 times. Stop after 10 strokes.
    5). The breath stops automatically. Let it remain suspended as long as possible. Do not exert. Enjoy the cessation of breath and thereby let the breath stop longer and longer.

    1). It helps to throw out toxins and cures illnesses of the respiratory track.
    2). It boosts the supply of oxygen and purifies the blood.
    3). It helps to keep negative thoughts away.
    4). It increases warmth in the body and helps to prevent the common cold.

    1). Bhastrika should be practiced with an empty stomach.
    2). It is strictly prohibited for patients of high blood pressure. or heart diseases.
    3). It should be done only in the morning in summer when the atmosphere is cool, but can be done twice in the morning and evening during winter.

    2. Kapalabhati (Cleansing breathing)
    ‘Kapal’ in Sanskirt means – ‘forehead’ and ‘bhati means - ‘shining’. Practising kapalbhati on a regular basis leads to a shining face with inner radiance. It is a highly energizing abdominal breathing exercise which involves quick exhalation and natural inhalation.

    1). Sit in any comfortable meditative posture with the back straight, hands resting on knees in either chin or gyana mudra, face relaxed.
    2). Practise rapid breathing with active and forceful exhalation and passive inhalation.
    3). During each exhalation blast out the air by vigorous flapping movements of the abdomen in quick succession.
    4). Inhale passively at the end of each exhalation.
    5). Repeat the exhalation as quickly as possible at the rate of 60 strokes per minute.
    6). At the end of one minute, stop the practice.
    7). Observe automatic suspension of breath. In fact, there will be no urge for breathing for a few seconds. Enjoy this state of deep silence, rest and freshness.

    1). Cleanses the lungs and the entire respiratory system.
    2). The blood is purified and the body gets an increased supply of oxygen to all cells.
    3). The digestion is improved.
    4). The abdominal muscles are strengthened.
    5). Prepares the mind for meditation.

    1). To be avoided by patients with heart problems, high blood pressure, hernia.
    2). Should never be practiced in an asthmatic attack.
    3). The breathing should be from the abdomen, not the chest.
    4). It should be practiced on an empty stomach only.
    5). It should be done after the asanas and relaxation and before meditation.

    3. Anulom – Vilom (Nadi shuddhi pranayama)
    It promotes balance between the two nostrils. Clears pranic blockage and balances ida – pingla nadis, causing susumne nadi to flow, which leads to deep states of meditation and spiritual awakening. Helps to maintain brahmacharya which is a pre-requisite for spiritual progress.

    1). Sit in any comfortable meditative posture in sukharasa or vajrasana.
    2). Adopt nasika mudra i.e. fold the index and middle fingers into the centre of the palm.
    3). Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril. Then inhale deeply through the same left nostril.
    4). Close the left nostril with your ring and little finger of the nasika mudra. Release the right nostril. Now exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril.
    5). Inhale deeply through the same right nostril. Then close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This completes one round.

    1). Owing to increased oxygen intake, one feels clean headed and calm.
    2). Regular practice helps in relieving stress, cold, mild fevers, eye and ear problems etc.
    3). Cleanses all nadis and makes the body healthy lustrous and strong.
    4). Also very beneficial in most diseases caused by disturbance of ‘vata dosha’ like rheumatism, gout, constipation etc. asthma, high blood pressure snoring. Even cancer and AIDS can be cured.

    1). While breathing breathe into your lungs, not stomach.
    2). Must be performed slowly and in a relaxed posture.
    3). If you feel a headache, giddiness etc. it means you are exerting much pressure on the lungs.

    4. Bhramari Pranayama (Resounding Pranayama)
    This pranayama is done generally after performing Anulom – Vilom for its full effect. The literal meaning of ‘brameri’ is ‘humming black bee’, because it gives a tingling sensation.

    1). Sit in padmasana
    2). Close your eyes with the four fingers of both hands and the thumbs on the ears.
    3). Touch the upper palate with the tongue.
    4). Now inhale and exhale, producing a humming or buzzing sound.
    5). Inhalation and exhalation should be from both nostrils and the mouth should be closed. It should be form the lungs, and abdominal movements should be minimal.
    6). Do nine rounds.

    1). Creates a soothing effect on the nervous system.
    2). Cultures the voice and increases the melody.
    3). Eliminates through ailments. Acts as a miracle in a person with thyroid problems.
    4). Reduces anger, anxiety, insomnia and blood pressure.
    5). Speeds up healing of tissue and may be practised after surgery.

    1). There may be a feeling of cold and a tingling sensation; as such it should be started slowly and increased gradually. The breathing should never be stopped under any circumstances. Even if one feels dizziness one should stop the normal process and start normal breathing.
    2). Regular practice of prayanama purifies the blood and enhances oxygen flow. Performing prayanama in the early morning helps to obtain a naturally glowing skin. The secret of an ageless skin is prayanama. You will not need to spend money on expensive beauty products to hide your age once you get to know the results of prayanama practice. prayanama is the key to better living. It is a way of improving your immune system.