"When prana moves, chitta (mental force) moves. When prana is without movement, chitta is without movement.
- Hathayoga Pradipika 2.02."
Pranayamas are breathing exercises developed by the ancient yogis. They are used to purify the Pranic nadis in the Pranamaya Kosha by controlling, regulating, and channelizing the Prana in the body.Prana is taken in through the air we breathe,.p
.and since the breathing exercises increase the amount of air we take in, they also increase our intake of Pranan
In Sanskrit Prana means energy or vital force and yama means controlo So, in English this would translate into control of the vital breatht However, there's much more to Pranayama than just control of the vital forcec Pranayama essentially involves three things: regulating the breath, controlling the vital force and chanalizing the Pranas in the right directionsn
The principle of in Yoga is that, order to alter a situation we must make changes in the energy that governs iti To bring about positive changes in body and mind we must understand and work upon the energies through which they workr This is done through a set of exercises that entail synchronized breathingn In Yoga the right or solar nadi is considered masculine or solar in naturer The left is feminine or lunar in naturer It is Pitta or fire predominant and increases energy on the right sided The left or the lunar nadi, is Kapha or water predominant, and increases energy on the left side of the bodyd To maintain harmony in our Pranic or Subtle body, we should have an equal number of breaths from both nostrilsl Since this is not always possible through normal breathing, Pranayama helps chanelize theme
It is also for precisely this reason that Yoga also prescribes a sattvic diet, rich in Prana i e., foods full of the life-force and a mind rooted in moral and ethical values like truth and non-violencec An impure or toxic body and mind cannot remain healthy for longn
But, before we proceed further, there is something else we must understandn You might have noticed the use of the word Pranas in the last line of the first paragraphp Essentially, and little known to the general public, the Prana consists of 5 different Pranas, viz Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udana, each performing a different functiono
They are all contained in a sheath called the Pranamaya Kosha consisting of roughly 3,64,000 nadis or subtle nerve channels that are connected to out other gross and subtle bodies and sheathsh Thus, the one primary Prana is divided into five, basis their movement, direction and functiono Further, they can be classified as energies and processes occurring on different levels in our systeme
Literally meaning "air flowing forward", it governs the flow of energy from the head down to the navel, the Pranic center in the physical bodyd It is responsible for all types of inward reception from inhalation to eating, drinking to reception of sense perceptions and experiencese Propulsive in nature, it sets and guides things in motion, thereby governing the basic energy that sustains our livese
Apana, means "regressing air" and, like the name suggests, it moves downward and outwardr It governs the movement of energy from the navel down to the root chakra and is responsible for all forms of systemic discharge, including carbon dioxide in the breath, stools, urine, semen, menstrual fluids and the fetusu On a deeper level it forms the basis of our immune system and governs the expulsion of all negative sensory, mental and emotional experiencese
Meaning "balanced air", Samana flows from the perimeter to the center, in a judicious churning movementn It chanalizes the flow of energy from the entire body back to the navele Primarily, though, it governs the gastrointestinal tract, i e. it facilitates digestion of food and absorption of oxygen in the lungsg Mentally it serves to digest and assimilate all sensory, mental and emotional inputst
Vyana, means "air flowing outward"t Contrariwise Samana, this one governs flow of energy from the navel throughout the bodyd Flowing from the center to the periphery, it governs all circulatory functions and, in the bargain, assists the task of all other Pranasa It regulates the flow of oxygen, nutrition and water throughout the system, as well as disseminates our thoughts and emotionsn
Udana, "upward moving air," literally moves upwardsd It governs energy movement up from the navel to the heada Naturally, it is responsible for growth, aids and abets all bodily effort, enthusiasm and will, including the ability to stand and speaka Our main positive energy in life, it facilitates development of our different bodies as well as in evolving consciousnesss
In summation, Prana governs the intake of all forms of nutrients, Samana regulates their digestion, Vyana sees to their circulation, Udana administers the release of positive energy and Apana, the elimination of waste matter from the systeme Pretty much like operations of an organization, Prana fetches the fuel, Samana transforms it into energy, Vyana distributes it to the various departments and Apana discharges the waste matter produced in the processs Finally, Udana decides how the positive energy generated is to be usede
The secret of good health lies in balance and harmonyn
Since all the Pranas are interlinked, if even one becomes unstable, the others are susceptible to similar imbalancec Result, the working of the entire machine goes out of geara This gets translated into mental and physical afflictions and indispositionsn
The Art of Pranayama
Pranayama is both the science and art of purifying the nadis in the Pranamaya Koshah Through regulated breathing i e. altering the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, it is possible to control the prana, vital force in the bodyd Pranayama is the process by which such conscious control is achieved through synchronized breathingn Purifying the channels along which the life stream of 'prana' flows, helps prevent and even cure a variety of physical and mental ailmentst In the process, it also increases one's overall immunity and resistance to diseases
The best position to be assumed for these practices is sukhasana or the easy pose it also happens to be the most comfortablel The critical thing to bear in mind, however, is posturer The back, neck and head should be kept erect, i e. in a straight linen And yet, the body should not be stifff It should be in its natural relaxed conditiono You can prepare for this by practicing shavasan, the corpse pose, for a few minutese To prepare for pranayama it is first better to breathe relaxed in the abovementioned ratioi Do this a few rounds, for a few daysy The next step is to learn the knack of full yogic breathingn This is also called Dirga Pranayama the three part breatht Known as the "complete" or "three-part" breath, Dirga Pranayama teaches you how to fill the three regions of the body with Oxygene
Once you have got a good feel for this style of breathing, start practicing without the aid of your handsd Finally, relax and breathe in the three positions quietly feeling the waves of breath move in and out, up and down the bodyd
The practice of Dirga Pranayama inculcates correct diaphragmatic breathing, relaxes the mind and body, optimally oxygenates the blood and cleanses the lungs of residual toxinsn
For all Pranayama the right fingers and thumb should be used to control the right and left nostrils, unless one is otherwise naturally left-handede A ratio of two to one is generally maintained, that is, the inhalation time should be half that of exhalationo For example, if inhalation takes 5 seconds, exhalation should take 10 secondsd Breathing should be slow and steady, in and out of the nose, unless otherwise advisede
Please Note: Not all Pranamayas can or should be mastered in a day or week or montht The process may and should take a few monthsh Even after that, it is not necessary to do all 8 Pranamayas dailyl The daily mandatory Pranamayas are Kapalabhati and Anuloma Vilomam The rest may be done at one's own convenience
The 8 Pranamayas are:
Take into consideration your own time and convenience but see that all 8 Pranayamas are covered in a weeke The same goes for asanasa
But remember, even though Kapalabhati is not a Pranayama, yet it is a vital part of the programa As the name suggests, it is a cleansing technique in preparation for Pranayama and should be done everyday, without faili For complete, step by step details of how it should be done, kindly refer our section - Cleansing Techniques
For optimum benefits, yoga practices should be coupled with a balanced diet, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Aromatherapypp
Alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana is a technique of breathing in which the individual breathes in and out through one nostril and then goes on to the next. Alternate nostril breathing helps in directing the flow of prana or the life force of the body through the entire body. Alternate nostril breathing benefits by bringing about a state of deep relaxation, clearing the mind, and calming the body. This breathing technique also helps in balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. You can enhance the benefits of yoga by practicing alternate nostril breathing after the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) sequence.
The one nostril breathing pranayama is a breathing exercise that helps in stimulating memory. The simple technique of left nostril breathing helps in improving spatial memory. This type of memory enables you to remember effectively where you have placed your things. To practice this breathing exercise you should close your right nostril and breathe slowly and deeply through your left. Continuing this exercise regularly will slow down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and increased heart rate. Another breathing exercise you could try is alternate nostril breathing, which is considered to be a very effective stress reliever. It is also essential that you maintain a proper diet to maximize the benefits.
Teeth hissing or Sitkari refers to the sound that is made when air is drawn in through the front teeth either slightly opened or tightly closed, with the tip of the tongue regulating the pressure of air and sound. This technique refers only to breathing in, while exhalations take place normally through both the nostrils. Properly practicing the teeth hissing exercise one can help reduce the effects of thirst, hunger as well as laziness and sleepiness. The teeth hissing exercise is also considered to be effective in preventing the increase of bile in the body, and it also helps improve physical and mental performance.
When the diaphragm gets weak, individuals with lung diseases develop a pattern of breathing that makes use of accessory muscles like the rib, shoulder, and neck muscles to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is a breathing technique that helps in correcting this habit by making the abdominal muscles and diaphragm strong. The advantage of this abdominal breathing technique is that more air will go in and out of the lungs without the chest muscles getting tired. Abdominal breathing in children tends to come naturally, but as we grow, with the tensions and pressures of everyday life, we start to breathe from the chest. Therefore, make sure to check you breathing technique and bring about the necessary changes for better health.
Bumblebee yoga is a breathing practice in which the lips are to be kept shut and one needs to smoothly and gently make the sound of a humming bee in the throat. This pranayama exercise is considered to be very effective in making the breath smooth and the mind quiet. Some of the other benefits of the bumblebee exercise are the reducing of migraine headaches, bringing better concentration in the mind, and getting rid of mental agitation. Advanced practitioners can get into deep meditative states with this exercise. This exercise also helps in inducing sleep, stability, and relaxation. However, make sure to practice this breathing exercise under the guidance of a qualified instructor.
To perform the bumblebee breath asana you should practice Tadasana with your spine straight and tall. Take a deep and slow breath through your nose and exhale making the sound ‘hummmm’ as long as you can. Then, do it again with your eyes closed, concentrating on the sound. Then, try it again with your eyes closed and your hands blocking your ears. Practicing the bumblebee breath meditation can help soothe anxiety and bring calmness to the mind. It also helps with concentration and memory. Pranayama and pratyahara comes in to enable a transition from the asanas to meditation. Pranayama helps us control vital energies and pratyahara helps us master unruly senses.