My favorite Pranayama – Bhramari !

My favorite Pranayama – Bhramari !

If you would have been someone who is interested in fitness, you would have realized by now that between physical and mental fitness, the mental fitness takes the highest priority. Now a days our lives are so busy, that while we have managed to concentrate on the physical fitness there is no time to take care of our mental fitness. Thats where Yoga balances things as it is all about connecting your body with your mind. Yoga gives priority to the mental fitness and this starts with something referred as PRANAYAMA.

Pranayama is a path towards increasing the vital energy which is required for basic functioning of our body – referred to as Prana. Without Prana the human body will perish. This Prana is the energy which keeps us going mentally and physically. And, ayama means lengthen or gain control. With this – as the name suggest Pranayama is about gaining control of the energy through regulation of the breath.

Before I joined Yoga, my understanding was that breath is a common phenomenon and it is the basic capability of the human body to breath and in turn send the required prana to all parts of the body. However, when I joined my Yoga classes and started learning more about Yoga & Pranayama, I realized that there are many techniques of regulated breathing which is being used to gain energy. This Prana when reaches to our Nadis and chakras it keeps the human being healthy from inside and outside. In our busy lives, sometime not paying attention to our breath might lead to blockages resulting into irregular flow of our prana to chakra and Nadia which becomes cause of worries, tension and other mental and physical problems.

There are many types of pranayama, however we will talk here about my favourite –  Bhramari.

Bhramari name is derived from an India Black Bee which visits different flowers and makes a humming sound. This Pranayama technique can be practiced at any quiet corner. The natural calming effect of the humming sound calms down the nerves around the forehead and brain.

How do we do it:

  • Find a quiet place around – it can be at home, office or any other place
  • Sit on a comfortable position with both eyes closed and bring a smile on your face
  • Place your thumb on the cartilage which exists near your ear
  • Take a long breath and start making a high-pitched bee like sound, repeat this for 11-16 times

Benefits

  • Long breath taken during Bhramhari reaches every cell of your brain which takes away your anxiousness and frustrations
  • This also helps to cure insomnia or sleeping issues
  • It helps to increase memory and concentration power
  • It improves hearing capacity
  • This exercise when done calms down your mind instantly if you are going through agitation or frustration
  • This helps for curing of Migraine and Epilepsy

My Research on Kapalabhati

The Practice of Kapalabhati

The Kapalabhati, involves forceful exhalation and breathing at a high frequency approximately 1.0 Hz, though rates are high as 2.0 Hz are known to more sophisticated yogis. It is a form of Kriya – A kriya is a cleansing technique taught in Hatha Yoga.

Kapalabhati –a high frequency yoga breathing practice, is the steady repetition of forceful exhalations followed by slightly slower, passive inhalations. It is translated to ‘shining forehead’ (kapala = forehead, bhati = shining or splendor, in Sanskrit).

Kapalabhati  is an invigorating breathing practice that clears the sinus, lungs, the nasal passages, and consequently, the mind. With this rapid exhalation, it brings lightness and clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Requiring a rapid contraction and release of the abdomen, it focuses primarily on the exhalation; the inhalation occurs passively and without effort.

Among the many breathing practices found in yoga, many emphasizes on muscular control during inhalation, not exhalation. Kapalabhati uniquely reverses this familiar pattern. In kapalabhati, the exhalation is active, with inhalation playing a passive role.

 

The Benefits of Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is energizing and warming. It helps to cleanse the lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system, which can help to prevent illness and allergies. Regular practice strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. This exercise also increases your body’s oxygen supply, consequently, stimulates and energizes the brain while preparing it for meditation and work that requires high focus.

Other known benefits of practising Kapalabhati are that it releases toxins, expands lung capacity, strengthens the nervous system, balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, powers up the third chakra, increases stamina, energizes blood flow and circulation, delivers oxygen to the brain, resulting in improved focused and a natural state of calm awareness, strengthens the immune system, aids in digestion etc.

 

How to practise Kapalabhati

Start by taking a couple of full breaths, grounding the mind and gently awakening the bodily senses. When you are ready to start practicing kapalabhati, expel the breath forcefully through the nostrils (without strain or tension) and simultaneously pull the navel dynamically inward toward the spine, gently contracting the abdominal muscles. Most of the work should be by your lower abdominal area, not diaphragm. As you release the abdomen, let the inhalation occur passively; the lungs will fill without any effort. Immediately repeat with another forceful exhalation, drawing the navel inward again, and then let the inhalation follow passively. This process is repeated in rapid succession—one exhalation per second, or faster. On the final exhalation, completely empty your lungs of the CO2 and then let your breath to return to normal to end.

 

Positions of Kapalabhati

Usually, this cleansing technique is carried out in sitting position, in a basic cross-legged pose or Padmasana aka Lotus pose. The hands should rest gently on the knees, palms facing upwards. Fingers in any Mudra.

 

When to practise Kapalabhati

Always practice either on an empty stomach or more than 2 hours after eating. This practice will build stamina if it is done consistently over time.

In the morning: Kapalabhati breathing is an energizing exercise, doing it first thing in the morning for an refreshing wake-up call.

When you are feeling cold: Kapalabhati is also a warming breath, so if you feel chilly, 20 cycles of Kapalabhati can warm you up, even on a snowy day.

Mid-afternoon: If you are feeling a case of the mid-day sluggishness, try 20 cycles of Kapalabhati to energize your mind and body to power you through the rest of the day.

Note: More seasoned yogis can go up to 50-100 cycles. Over 120 cycles can cause a reduction in oxytocin levels.

 

Cautions

Persons with high or low blood pressure or with coronary heart disease should avoid doing Kapalabhati. Those who have problems with their eyes (for example, glaucoma), ears (fluid in the ears), or nosebleed should not practice this exercise. Also, this breathing exercise should not be practiced by pregnant or menstruating women. Stop if you experience any pain, dizziness or light headedness, or unable to maintain a steady rhythm. Our energy moves up and out in unexpected ways, so staying within our pre-set boundaries for experimentation is extremely important. Most importantly, pay full attention to your capacity. Whenever your body shows signs of fatigue, end your practice immediately.

 

Yuj

Yoga, union of body and mind.

The thousands of journey begin with one step’ – Lao Tze. We often learn one or two ancient philosophy quote as we grow up and this particular one influences me the most because I wouldn’t have accomplish many things in my life if I was unwilling from stepping my first step. Too, I wouldn’t have start practicing yoga, struggle to grow stronger, wiser and finally understand practicing yoga is actually a path of self awakening for seeking truth, health and philosophy of life.

I can still recall how uncoordinated I was when I started yoga, back in my 30s. My body was stiffed, hard to bend and even difficult to breathe, at some points. I refused to give up and kept returning to the class because I have started my first step and I need to complete my journey. Gradually, I was able to stretch, bend deeper and hold the pose longer. After a year or two of constant practice, a question appeared on my mind, ‘what is the ultimate goal of all this?’ I spent some times to search for the answer and following that, I realised I need to look into myself. Because of practicing yoga, I have learned to focus, contemplate and change, not only the fitness of the physical, but also the mind and spirits.

The practice of yoga started in India many centuries ago and it was not until later, a rare enlightened master, the sage Patanjali compiled a collection of sutras on the theory for practice by synthesising and organising the traditional knowledge. The collection of sutras was named as The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The sutras defined Yoga (Yuj) as union, or to unite. The union of the many selves of our own, physically, mentally and spiritually.  

Further explained in one of Patanjali’s sutras, to release the mind we need to follow the systematic methodology path, the raja yoga (king of yoga), also known as ashtanga yoga (eight limbs of yoga). 

In raja yoga, the first limb is five abstentions or outer observances, Yama. Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint and non-possessive. Second limb, five inner observances, Niyama. Pure, happy, discipline, reflective and devotion. Third limb, the physical posture needed for meditation, Asana. Fourth limb, controlled or suspended breath, Pranayama. Fifth limb, withdrawal of the senses, Pratyahara. Sixth limb, single-pointed concentration, Dharana. Seventh limb, meditation, Dhyana. And the eighth limb, liberation, Samadhi.

By understanding how simple a breath will affect the physical movement, how letting go some of the controls will enhance the balance, and how contemplate, adjust, change and concentrate will unite our inner spirits, we will one day able to liberate our mind and achieve infinite calmness.