Table of Contents
- What is Pranayama?
- Practicing Pranayama Effectively – Tips for Best Results
- Types of Pranayama Breathing Techniques
- What are the Benefits of Pranayama?
- Disclaimer and Caution on Pranayama Practice
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama, in essence, means “life force” attained and maintained through regulating one’s breath. It is a yogic practice that can be self-taught, or administered by a trained Yoga practitioner. The International Journal of Yoga affirms that ‘Hatha Yoga‘ is the parent form of contemporary yogic practice, and branches to Pranayama (Breathing exercises) and Asana (Physical postures), which are widely practiced today.
It’s interesting to note that, it is, therefore, much easier to practice Pranayama over Asana, because the breathing exercises can be done literally anywhere – be it in a commute, work meeting, watching a horror movie, meeting a new friend/spouse, et cetera.
- Prana – Vital energy
- Ayama – Control or Regulation or Expansion.
Thus, Pranayama exercise is a vital technique of getting our Mind aligned and sane, given the contemporary world’s unending issues. Binaural Beats can help one or rather can compliment the practice of pranayama. Kindly refer to our binaural beats Hz guide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has termed this yoga practice as a Contemporary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The CAMs have been integrated into modern healthcare systems. So, next time you see someone practicing Pranayama, don’t view them as some monk wannabes :).
Pranayama is a Therapeutic Yoga, practiced through regulation of breath. It is an ancient systematic breathing exercise that enhances mental health as well as physical wellness. This yogic practice is a mind-body practice that helps an individual in keeping mentally and physically fit in a myriad of ways, which we shall see below.
The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, a famous book on Yoga in India, Pranayama is the fourth limb of an eight-fold holistic process that is referred commonly as Yoga.
How do you Practice Pranayama?
A specific breathing pattern is used, where one inhales and exhales rhythmically.
The best pose to do Pranayama is the basic Yoga stance, where one seats in a comfortable yoga mat or a DIY improvised but comfortable mat.
Ways of Practicing Pranayama Breathing
There are tons of guides out there on the the best practices.
However, the below are the basic aspects involved in pranayama.
- Puraka – Inhalation
- Recaka – Exhalation
- Antah Kumbhaka – Internal breath retention
- Bahih Kumbhaka – External breath retention
Precisely, the above are not variants of pranayama (deep breathing), but are just but basics. While a specific modus operandi may be followed, the yogic art majorly involves intentional alteration of the breathing process such as alternate nostril breathing, rapid diaphragmatic breathing, breath retention/holding, and slow and deep breathing.
Practicing Pranayama Effectively – Tips for Best Results
Travelling by road and by air will both get you to the destination, all factors held constant, However, we can unanimously agree that mobility by air is way more convenient and efficient. Similarly, there are prerequisites to effectively practicing pranayama.
According to YogaBasics, the below points are proven to be comprehensive Pranayama breathing practice essentials.
- Most importantly, get comfortable. That is, clothing (well-fitting but loose, and preferably stretchy).
- A sitting stance is advocated for maximum concentration. In Yogic culture and language/practice, this stance is referred as Asana.
- The environment should be clean and possibly have free-flowing ambient air, whether in a room or outside. However, practicing the yoga is advisable when done outside in a cool place.
- It is recommended that you practice it at the same place at all times.
- Ensure to avoid any sort of distractions.
- Preferably, be on an empty stomach when practicing this breathing yoga.
- Before the pranayama exercises, empty your bladder and bowels.
- Your mind should be focused on the breath as much as possible.
- Any physical distraction from your body such as tension, pain, numbness, tingling, should not worry you. Instead, try to focus on relaxing that area and re-routing the distraction to your breath pattern. That will help you to focus.
- Finally, be patient with yourself, it takes time to be adept at it. It is prudent to be consistent for fast and tangible results.
Types of Pranayama Breathing Techniques
Yogic breathing (Pranayama) is a multifaceted practice. Given its numerous health benefits, it is prudent to familiarize oneself with a particular type, learn its components and modus operandi to the core, before proceeding another type. This is especially true if you are a beginner, and would want to become a guru in pranayama breathing practice.
However, this does not mean one cannot learn more than one skills at a go. While still at it, it is advisable to give each pranayama subcategory practice an exclusive time to learn and practice. This way, rest assured that you will learn its particular ropes effectively.
Masterly of any skill needs consistency. Another important thing, though not entirely an obligation, is to have a steady set time for each practice. This means that, for instance, if you set to practice two particular types till you become proficient, schedule one type in the morning and the other in the evening. For example, you could set Suryabheda pranayama in the morning at 6:30AM in the morning for about 30-45 minutes, and Savitri pranayam at 6:00PM in the evening for about 30 minutes.
13 Types of Pranayama Breathing Exercises
Lets have a brief view of some of the prominent types of the yogic breathing practices now. This is not an exhaustive list, but only the popular types.
- Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya – This yoga comprises both deep breathing and meditation exercises.
- Bhastrika Pranayama – This is in common terms referred to as “Bellow breathe.”
- Dirga Pranayama – May also be known as Dirgha Pranayama
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Simhasana Pranayama
- Bhramari Pranayama
- Viloma Pranayama
- Ujjayi Pranayama
- Sama Vritti Pranayama.
- Sukha Pranayama – Conscious deep and slow breathing with equal inhalation and exhalation rates.
- Pranava Pranayama
- Udgeeth Pranayama – Chanting breath
- Kapalabhati Pranayama – Known, in common terms, as Breath of fire or skull shining breath
What are the Benefits of Pranayama?
The are many therapeutic and psychological health benefits of this breath control practice. The yogic breath control practice is fast being embraced as a contemporary and alternative medicine. This has especially been adopted by victims suffering from psychosocial and psychological (affecting the normal mind psyche) disorders.
Formal peer reviewed and credible studies have ascertained the various psychological and therapeutic benefits of pranayama practice, as unearthed below.
1. Regulates and maintains cardiac functions.
Whether you have been diagnosed with irregular and erratic blood pressure and heart rate conditions, or just seek to maintain your mental acuity and health, pranayama comes in handy. According to this recent study by Nivethitha, Mooventhan, and Manjunath in the Ancient Science of Life Journal, this yogic culture can help one acquire enhanced cardiac functions.
Consequently, one can experience better neural functioning, after the basic cardiac functioning has been put in check. Factors such as body temperature, hormones, and most others that depend on the good operation of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). According to the authors of this peer reviewed science-backed article, regular yogic could prevent early death among practitioners.
2. Avoid and decreases stress
3. Improves sleep quality
4. Elevates cognitive functions and performance
5. Helps reduce, control and and mitigate negative habits and addictions (Such as smoking cigarettes and alcohol dependency, among other drug substance abuse and addictions)
6. Enhances lung function and capacity
7. Improves general meditation and mindfulness practices.
The above benefits are ascertained by Healthline, basing their findings from various scientific and scholarly contemporary articles.
Disclaimer and Caution on Pranayama Practice
- Before practicing pranayama, ensure that you do not have negative respiratory or breathing issues. It is advisable to check with a physician first.
- Keep of from this yogic practice if you have high blood pressure or heart rate issues.
- Discontinue if you feel nausea, dizziness, or related ill feelings.
- It is best practice if you learn from an experienced yoga practitioner.