You must have heard about pranayama. It is a very popular yoga practice of breath regulation. It is derived from the combination of two words: ‘prana’ meaning life energy, and ‘Yama’ meaning control. it involves inhaling, exhaling, and holding the breath in a specific sequence. Generally, pranayama is used with other practices like meditation and other exercises and asanas to attain the maximum benefits.
Pranayama is a very ancient practice and it teaches you how to control your duration, time, and frequency of every breath. It includes various techniques of breathing like nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), female honey bee humming breath (bhramari), bellows breath (bhastrika), etc. These exercises help control the rhythms of pranic energy responsible for the life and thus help in achieving the body’s mind and control.
Types of pranayama
In case you’re struggling to find the best pranayama exercises for your yoga routine, we have you packed. Here is a list of some of the best and most important pranayamas that can be the perfect addition to your daily yoga routine. So, here you go!
- Nadi Shodhana:
This is the alternate nostril breathing exercise. You need to sit straight in a cross-legged position, with your back and spine straight. Use the thumb of your right hand to press down your right nostril. After this, use your left nostril to take a deep inhale. hold your breath for a few seconds, and then switch your thumb to press down on your left nostril and exhale from your right nostril.
You can repeat this process by switching the nostrils around 10 to 15 times.
- Ujjayi Pranayama:
This pranayama aims to mimic the sound of the ocean waves and bring calmness and peace to your mind as well as your soul.
Sit in a cross-legged position and breathe through your mouth. While you inhale and exhale through the mouth, try to constrict your throat like it is being choked. This way, you will be able to produce a sound very similar to the sound of the waves of the ocean.
After some time, you can close your mouth and start to breathe through your nose with your throat still in the same constriction. This pranayama can be repeated a total of 10 to 15 times.
- Viloma pranayama:
This pranayama can be practiced in two ways:
- Paused inhalation: lie down in a straight position and inhale for 2-3 seconds. Pause and hold for a few seconds and begin to inhale again. Keep inhaling the same ways in small intervals until you reach the point where your lungs are full of air. Expel all the air by gently exhaling.
- Paused exhalation: this works opposite to paused inhalation. You need to inhale deeply in one go and then exhale in small intervals, periodically.
- Anuloma pranayama:
This involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril, while the other nostril is partially blocked. This also encourages alternate nostril breathing and is quite similar to viloma pranayama.
- Bhramari Pranayama:
Use your hands to close your ears and eyes. Place your thumbs on both your ears and place your fingers on your eyes. Inhale deeply and exhale while simultaneously chanting OM. Repeat the practice a total of 10 to 15 times.
- Bhastrika pranayama:
Get seated in a cross-legged position and start inhaling and exhaling at a fast, continuous rate. After a few rounds of inhaling and exhaling, hold your breath and in the end, exhale gently.
This pranayama helps warm up your body in the cold season.
- Kapalabhati pranayama:
This is a quite popular pranayama practice and is a loved one among all yoga enthusiasts. To practice this, settle down in a cross-legged position and breathe normally 2 to 3 times. Then, take a deep inhale and exhale with full force, while also trying to suck your belly in as and when you expel all the air.
Repeat the process 20-30 times.
- Sheetkari pranayama:
This pranayama involves producing ‘sheetkar’ sound from your mouth.
Inhale in the air by keeping your tongue behind your teeth, hold your breath and then exhale the air using your nostrils. Practice this 5-10 times. This exercise will significantly help control the temperature of your body, especially during summers.
What are the benefits of pranayama?
Now that we’ve told you about the main pranayama types, let us also have a glance at the benefits of this breath control exercise.
Pranayama makes you aware of your breathing and makes you pay attention to the way it feels. Pranayama helps you attain better emotional regulation of your body and mind, and helps you focus in the present moment i.e. mindfulness. It also helps increase oxygen concentration and remove carbon dioxide.
- Helps reduce stress and anxiety:
This never stopping world of today hardly gives us time to pause and appreciate our surroundings, our bodies, or pay attention to our minds. pranayama gives you that time, by reducing the levels of stress in your body. Several studies have also suggested the benefits of pranayama in the significant reduction of stress and anxiety levels. The main reason for this is the increased oxygen intake during this practice.
- Improvement in lung function:
Pranayama can have a significant impact on lung function and can significantly strengthen your lungs. It may also help with conditions like asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.
- Helps reduce blood pressure levels:
Conditions like stress are major contributors to high blood pressure. Pranayama can help reduce blood pressure since it is helpful in the reduction of stress. Studies have also supported this claim. The concentration of breath during pranayama helps calm the nervous system, which in turn reduces the stress response and hence, the risk of hypertension.
This is all about pranayama, its types, and its benefits. We hope this helps you in understanding all about pranayama and we hope you take up this extremely beneficial practice asap and include it in your daily routine. We assure you you are going to experience a lot of positive changes in your body as well as your mindset.