Pranayama Sama Vritti

Sama Vritti Pranayama

The meaning of pranayama : ‘Pranayama’ literally means ‘to expand prana’ (vital force). In the 49th Sutra of Sadhanapada of Patanjala Yogasutra, the great Rishi Patanjali has defined Pranayama as a process in which respiration is interrupted and Prana, that is, the vital force is controlled and regulated. According to some, Prana mean air. But this is a wrong and misleading interpretation. Prana means something more than air. Prana, in  fact, is the vital power which is the force motivating every element of the earth and which is the origin of the force of thought. There is a deep affinity between Prana and mental force, between mental force and intellect, between intellect and soul, and between soul and God. Thus, the purpose of Pranayama is to inspire, motivate, regulate and balance the vital force (Prana) pervading in the body. This is the reason why Pranayama is considered one of the efficacious means of attaining Yoga.

The importance of Pranayama: Much importance has been attached to Pranayama in Yogashastras. According to Vyasabhashya, there is no ‘tapa’ (penance), greater than Pranayama. It cleanses the body and knowledge is manifested. Manu says, ‘Just as gold and other metals melted in fire become so pure so also the sense organs of the body get rid of impurities by Pranayama.’ Pranayama is the fourth and very important stage of Ashtanga Yoga shown by Patanjali. Yoga without Pranayama is not Yoga at all. That is why Pranayama is called the soul of Yoga. Bathing is necessary for purifying the body. Similarly, Pranayama is essential for purifying the mind.

What is Sama Vritti Pranayama?

Sama Vritti is one of the basic breathing techniques in yoga and this kind of breathing helps calm your autonomic nervous system. It means equal breath or box breathing. Sama mean “equal” and vritti mean “mental fluctuations’’. It is a ratio breathing technique that uses a set length of equal inhalations, exhalations and breath retentions.

Simple steps to start the breath cycle:

  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the breath in for a count of 4
  • Exhale for a count of 4

 Benefits of Pranayama

  • It helps strengthen the muscles used in breathing, increases the lung capacity, improve circulation in the body and stimulate the inner organs. Also, help exhaling excess carbon dioxide can prevent us from getting “Hypercapnia”.
  • Sending more oxygen to the brain helps to improve mental clarity, focus, concentration.
  • It helps let go of negative thoughts and emotions. By focusing on our breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the fight OR flight response and producing a sense of calmness.
  • Focusing on the breath draws our attention inwards, which increases our inner peace and stillness making it easier to concentrate and meditate.

I would like to share a life experience, my friend and I was practising Sama Vritti. She shared that after the 4th cycle, she could smell garlic as she exhale and subsequently it get stronger. Conclusion, we should try to avoid rajasic foods that over stimulate the body and mind.

 

 

Breathe your way to healthier looking skin & stress relieving life

What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is an ancient practice of controlling your breath.

Controling the duration, timing, and frequency of every breath and hold.

In Sanskrit, Prana = life energy, Yama = control

What is Anulom Vilom?

Anulom Vilom is a specific type of Pranayama/controlled breathing in yoga practice.
Inhale with one nostril closed, change side by closing the first nostril and exhale from the other nostril.
This process is reversed and repeated.

Anulom Vilom physical and mental health benefits

  • Mood lifting
  • Helps to focus
  • Relieve stress & anxiety
  • Maintain heart health, lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves sinus
  • Removes blockages present in your nostrils thus minimises snoring
  • Improves immune system, keeping the cough and cold at bay
  • Removes toxins from your body
  • Good for skin
  • Helps with muscles aches

Most people can practice Anulom Vilom safely as there is no known side effects,
however do stop should you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable.

 

Why Anulom Vilom and not other pranayama?

I choose Anulom Vilom and integrate in my practice because it is easy, no need of holding of breath and retention.
You can do it anywhere as long as you can sit in a comfortable sitting position.
Personally, I have some sinus issues and I have seen some improvement after doing 5 mins for about a week. I find myself calmer and less stress and anxious at work.
I also noticed that my skin also look less dull!

How to practice Anulom Vilom?

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, eyes closed, left hand resting on your knee.
  2. Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
  3. Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale slowly and steadily with your left nostrils till your lungs are full.
  4. Release your thumb, close your left nostrils with your ring finger, exhale slowly with your right nostril.
  5. Reverse and repeat process, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.

Try for about a minute for a start and slowly increase to 5-10minutes.
Best done on an empty stomach!

My new hobby is BREATHING.

I always thought that breathing is an autonomous process – but while I was doing some research, I learnt that breathing is the only autonomous system of the body that we CAN control, through conscious breathing practices such as pranayama.

 

In addition, I found out that there are MANY ways of pranayama, each with its own benefits. The more I know, the more I want to find out – I never imagined I would find breathing interesting.

 

Anyway, just for fun – I decided to test out some of the things I read about Pranayama/ breathing and below are my results:

S/N What I Read/ Heard My Test Results*
1 Pranayama helps with weight loss – the practice of breathing techniques is an effective way to reduce body fat. TRUE that pranayama reduces body fat but FALSE that it helps to lose weight. I practised Kapalbhati everyday for a week and found that my abdominal muscles became more defined.
2 Pranayama improves sense of well-being and immunity, among other numerous health benefits. TRUE.
I find that my rhinitis did not act up for the period that I was practising pranayama, and I did not have to use my nasal spray for that week!
3 According to some studies, breathing more slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce one’s appetite. FALSE.
I tried this before meals and even in between my meals but it did not work for me.
4 Some clinical studies have shown that Bhramari pranayama slows down breathing and heart rate and this may help calm our body for sleep. TRUE for Ujjayi breathing, not for Bhramari pranayama. I practised ujjayi breathing for about 5 minutes and it helped cure my insomnia.
5 When we breathe, we are either right nostril or left nostril dominant. It is believed that the right nostril is more open or breathing more smoothly when we are more fired up/ active/ aroused. Dominance in the left nostril tends to happen when we are relaxed and at ease. FALSE.

I tried this for more than 10 times over three days but my right nose was almost always more dominant. However, I think this could be because of my rhinitis that blocked one of my nostrils.

 

*These results are not conclusive as they were not done in a controlled environment and there could be several other factors affecting the outcome. They are meant for sharing purposes only, please feel free to conduct your own experiments as the results could vary for different individuals.

Lastly, it is said that we only have so many breaths in our life. If we could extend our life span a little longer just by taking as many slow, deep breaths as possible, why not? Start your daily 10mins pranayama practice today!

 

Anulom Vilom and its benefits to my body and mind

I am personally interested in spirituality and I have been trying a few kinds of meditations. But I only learned more about pranayama techniques in the yoga teacher training (YTT) with Tirisula, so Pranayama is new to me. I practiced some pranayama when I attended some yoga classes earlier, but I didn’t know much about its benefits and details. 

 

In Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ means life energy and ‘Ayama’ means expansion. I am interested in pranayama because the course manual says it’s a link between body, emotions, mind and spirit – so interesting!

 

Because of the homework of pranayama practicing, so I have been practicing Anulom Vilom every morning for a few weeks. For myself, I want to be more mindful and energize my body before I start my day so I choose to do Anulom Vilom to see if there is any effects to my body and mind.

 

Anulom Vilom is an alternate nostril breathing. To breathe with Anulom Vilom technique, we use the right hand with middle and index fingers folded towards the palm. Place the thumb on the right nostril and ring finger on the left nostril. Close the left nostril (or right). Inhale through the right (or left) nostril, close and exhale through the left (or right) nostril. Focus on the breath and continue for at least 10 rounds. It’s best to be done on an empty stomach.

 

From my studies, there are many benefits of Anulom Vilom:

  • Intake more oxygen and purify blood
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Improve concentration and focus
  • Energise the body when do it in the morning
  • Calm the mind down when do it at night

 

When I do Anulom Vilom in the morning, it helps to improve my concentration and energise my body. I like the fact that we can control our mind by control our breathing.

 

At night, when I can’t sleep, I will lie down on my right side so I can breathe well from my left nostril and it helps me to fall asleep faster. I don’t have insomnia, I only take time to fall asleep and Anulom Vilom helps!

 

This is only one pranayama technique among many other techniques that I learned e.g. Bastrika, Brahmari, Sheetari, Sama Vritti, etc. I will also use other pranayama techniques to suit the benefits I want for my body and mind and I would encourage everyone to try too 🙂  

Pranayama – sama vritti

Pranayama is the yogic practice of focusing on breath. Prana means “vital life force”, and yama means to gain control. In yoga, breath is associated with the prana, thus, pranayama is a means to elevate the Prana shakti, or life energies.

I have done some research on breathing techniques of Sama Vritti,

In Sanskrit, ‘sama‘ means ‘equal,’ ‘vritti‘ means ‘rotation/flow,’. Sama Vritti Pranayama is part of the yoga practice that teaches one to breath in four steps. This kind of breathing in English is called the Square Breathing or sometimes called Four Parts Even Breathing. (Nose) / boxing breathing

The four steps or the breathing cycle is given below:

  1. Puraka (Inhalation)
  2. Antar Kumbhaka (Retention after Inhalation)
  3. Rechaka (Exhalation)
  4. Bahya Kumbhaka (Retention after Exhalation)

Without changing anything observe the natural inhalation, the exhalation and the natural pauses between each breath.

  1. Begin with an exhale for the count of four.
  2. Hold on the exhale for the count of four.
  3. Inhale for the count of four.
  4. Hold on the inhale for the count of four.

The benefits

It can help you to cope with panic and stress when feeling overwhelmed.  It helps you to sleep when you are having insomnia. To control hyperventilation as you can instruct your lungs to breathe rhythmically. To stay focused when you are having a busy or stressful day. (Focusing the mind helping to remove distractions making it easier to concentrate and meditate.) Refining the breath and awareness of prana flow. Conscious inhalation of equal duration helps to improve the capacity of the lungs. It helps to energize the sleeping cells of the body. Long and deep inhalation (Puraka) build strong awareness. When Prana consciously held inside the body for equal counts its capacity to charge other organs increased automatically. It distributes the energy equally to all the organs of the body.

Nadi Shodana

The Nerves Calming Effect

To rest my eyes from staring too much on the screens during work, sometimes I like to look around and peculiarly, I would pick up one or two random facts in the room, for example, different breathing patterns. In a same room, some people breathe fast and shallow even though they are not working out, some people has less belly movement when breathing, and some create noises. I guess there are many reasons causing the differences, such as their body types, respiratory systems and living environments, or the effect of certain diseases or trainings. 

Breathing is vital because the oxygen we breathe in keep us alive, we use the oxygen to create energy. One person uses about 550 litres of oxygen per day and the tiny capillaries, the smallest type of blood vessel in our body transport the oxygen to the 50 trillion cells in our body. Over the century, human understand the importance of the oxygen in our body and developed many techniques, practices or exercises to educate the generations on how to take the full advantage of the air, and one of it is pranayama in Yoga. 

In Sanskrit, pranayama is the combination of 2 words, prana (vital energy) and ayama (expansion), literally, we shall learn how to expand the flow of the energy in our body. Pranayama is the teaching of using different breathing techniques to manifest the prana of the air into every cells of our body, and to train our breathing pattern within the realm of our conscious awareness.

One way to train our breathing pattern and to have a good control of it is to practice nadi shodana, a nerves calming breathing technique. Nadi shodana enable us to learn in getting control of our breathing by elongating the length of inhalation, exhalation and retention of the breath. And by elongating the length of the breathing, we slowly maximise the use of our lung capacity, which in turns able to provide healthier amount of oxygen to all the cells in our body.   

To practice nadi shodana, sit comfortably, spine straight and body weight distributed equally on the hips and legs. Eyes close, body relax and take a few smooth, even breaths. 

Take a last smooth and even breath and exhale completely. Gently close the right nostril with right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Inhale deeply for about 6 seconds.

As soon as the inhalation is completed, gently close the other nostril with the ring finger. Retain the breath for for about 12 seconds, or up to 24 seconds.

Keep the left nostril close and release the right thumb, begin exhaling through right nostril. Exhale slowly for about 12 seconds.  

After the exhalation and still on the right nostril, inhale deeply for about 6 seconds. Subsequently, block both nostrils and retain the breath for about 12 seconds and exhale through the left nostril for about 12 seconds.

Continue the breathing cycles for 10 minutes and finish the pranayama practice with three resting breaths through both nostrils and feel the calming effect.

The advantage of practicing nadi shodana is to help calming the nerves, or the astral energy tubes (nadis), as well as to reduce the soreness of the muscles.

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.

 

Pranayama – What is it and How does it work?

We all know that Pranayama is a breathing practice and it has various benefits like increase energy, decrease stress, improve mental clarity and improve physical health. It is also identified as the fastest way to make you calm down.

But how does it work? We need to understand what prana is first.

Prana is the universal life force, which is the energy that distinguishes the living from the dead. It is the energy (chi) that going through our body via the energy channels (Nadis) and stored in our energy centers (chakras). Hence, prana is very important to the living body.

Surprisingly, there are different sources to get prana.

  1. Food – We can increase the prana intake from the Vegetables and fresh food. As mentioned earlier, prana only exists in the livings. Therefore, there is less or nearly no prana from the stale food and meat.
  2. Sleep – We always feel tired before sleeping and more energetic after waking up. Sleeping help us to increase the prana in our bodies.
  3. State of mind – When you feel tired you normally has no energy to do anything, but you are more energetic when you are in a good, bright or positive state of mind
  4. Breath – It is the most direct and instant source for us to get prana.

Breathing is the most direct and instant way to increase the prana in our bodies, but it is not just breath control. It is more about how we focusing on the breath, regulating the breath to increase the prana.

Since ancient times, Yogis already knew the power of prana and have been constantly developing breathing techniques to increase and maintain the prana, which is Pranayama.

Yogis believe there is a link between our emotions and breath. For every emotion, there’s a particular rhythm in the breath. For example, when you are calm and relaxed your breath is nice and easy and long but when you are angry, your breath is normally short and shallow. Because we cannot control our emotions directly, what we are doing through pranayama is we are controlling our breath and that is going to control our emotions.

So what are the benefits of pranayama?

  1. Calm mind
  2. Reduces worries and anxiety
  3. Improves focus and attention
  4. Boosts immune system
  5. Energizes body and mind
  6. Slow down the aging process

These are the general benefits of pranayamas, and there are other specific benefits we can get through practicing specific pranayams. Some examples are:

  1. Bhramri: Calms mind down
  2. Kapal Bhati: Detoxifying body and clearing energy channels
  3. Bhastrika: Instance Energy
  4. Nadi Shodan: Instance Focus
  5. Anulom Vilom: Instance Focus

Most importantly, it helps to delay the aging process!!

Pranayama: Ujjayi breathing

In our yoga practice, we learned different breathing techniques. They are all important, and I enjoy breathing practices and meditation. However, I will write about a type of breathing method that helps active asana engagements—ujjayi breathing.

 

When I first learned about ujjayi breathing, my teacher said it is a good pranayama to warm up our body. Later, in our training, I also learned that it helps trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system functions to assist our body’s rest and digestion response when the body is in a relaxed, resting, or feeding mode. This means that ujjayi breathing works to make us more relaxed and calm, and deepens our postures by relaxing the muscles. I do feel like this breathing indeed helps me keep my mind focused on the ‘present’ moment during my asana practice. I feel that it helps reducing stress and anxiety especially when trying challenging poses.

 

After practising yoga for a while, I started to notice how the quality of my breath impacts the overall quality of my learning journey. While it is challenging, I came to enjoy ashtanga practices, which requires a lot of focus and strengths. If I want to be in a fully focused state, I have to be ‘present’ with my breathing. Increasingly, I realized that ujjayi breathing stops me from rushing through the asana and helps me create inner stillness. Eventually, my goal is to be able to really combine my mind and body with the breathing during my ashtanga practice, and be able to embody the experience the breathing, as if my breath is moving my body (and no longer me).

 

I really appreciate the powerful nature of breathing. After all, yoga is an ultimate form of balancing act, and breathing is the key for the balance. With steady, controlled breathing, our bodies are able to reach places where we want to be, physically and mentally.


Anulom Vilom Pranayama Benefits

I was introduced to Anulom Vilom when I was searching on Youtube on how to cure sinus and relieve oneself of a stuffy nose. I had come across Anulom Vilom without knowing it was Anulom Vilom, I had merely thought it to be a way to cure sinuses. It was only after I attended YTT that I knew its name. 

Improves Respiratory Endurance

I had physically experienced the benefits of Anulom Vilom and it had helped clear my stuffy nose. And indeed, one of the benefits of Anulom Vilom is that it boosts our respiratory system. As we are able to inhale more oxygen in this pranayama, it expands our lung capacity and increases our respiratory endurance. It may also help prevent issues such as asthma, allergies, or any blocked pulmonary disease.

Improve Blood Circulation and Heart Function

Anulom Vilom also helps improve the blood circulation in our body. As we breathe in and out deeply, more purified and uninterrupted oxygen gets circulated to our heart and brain. This helps maintain our blood pressure, as well as purify the nerves and veins in our body. This gives us lesser risks of any blocked arteries or heart diseases. 

Lowers Stress and Improves Mental Health

Another benefit of Anulom Vilom is that it can lower our stress levels. As the enhanced oxygen flow improves our blood flow and reaches our brain, it helps rejuvenate our brain cells and improves our memory, concentration, attention and helps stabilise our mood. This helps improve our overall mental health, and helps decrease anxiety, depression and reduces our stress. 

Improves Digestion and Helps Weight Loss 

As oxygen reaches our stomach and intestine, it helps flushes out any toxins and allows us to reduce our weight. The improved flow of oxygen also improves metabolism and balances hormones, which help us maintain our weight. Our digestion is improved and we can prevent any stomach-related infections.  

Treats Snoring Issues

Anulom Vilom helps to thoroughly clear out our nasal passage via alternate breathing through our nostrils. This prevents any blockages and allows smooth and constant passage of oxygen even when we are sleeping, eliminating snoring.