The Different Types of Pranayama

Breathing; an essential in our everyday life. But, just how much thought have people put into this element that enables our survival. Many people took breathing so lightly, that the inhalation and exhalation are so short which causes them to have an increase in breathes taken in a minute. This not only affects the mood but also made the heart work harder by pumping more oxygen and CO2 in and out of the physical body, as a result, reducing the life span of one. And people have not actually realised, all these small little things do link together.
In a yoga class, the first thing we do is to have the students do deep breathing, with inhalation and exhalation with a ratio of 1:2, to know their daily pattern of breathing. By being clear of one’s breathing patterns, they will be more clear as to what they want in life. This is similar to what you will hear people saying when your nervous/anxious, “take deep breaths”, however, to much dismay, the exhalation is much more important than the inhalation.
The different types of pranayama:

  • Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

The basic breathing exercise which allows one to concentrate on the breathe going in and out of one nostril. Many a times, we will be only breathing in and out through one very nostril even without us realising.  And in yoga, the breathe in the right nostril is termed as hot, while the one in left is cool. Therefore when the breathe continues to flow through one nostril for more than 2 hours, iy is a symptom of derangement caused by excessive heat or cold. Thus this exercise is mainly for maintaining the equilibrium in the left and right processes in the body.

  • Nadi Shodana (Full Alternate Breathing)

The only difference between this and the first is that we include retention of breathe here with a ratio of 1:4:2, and 1:2:2 for beginners. By retaining the breathe, the lungs and entire respiratory system are cleansed and strengthened. And also, the rate of gaseous exchange in the lungs is greatly increased as a result of the increase in pressure. This means that more oxygen from the lungs goes into the blood stream and more CO2 are eliminated during exhalation.
Both of this alternate nostril breathing calms the mind, purifies the nadis (nerves), making the body light and eyes shiny.

  • Ujjayi

Also known as the ‘Ocean breath’, it is created by creating a soft sound in the back of the throat while inhaling and exhaling through the nose . This ujjayi breath is practiced during asanas as it creates a rhythm in the breath that allows us to flow throughout the practice. In addition, the sound also sets as a mantra to put our minds in focus and awareness. With both energizing and relaxing benefits at the same time, it makes one’s asana practice to be done at ease; increasing the oxgen intake, building internal heat as well as removing toxins all at once.

  • Kapalabhati

An exercise for the purification of the nasal passages, bronchial tubes and lungs through continuous passive inhalation and active exhalation whereby large quantities of CO2 are eliminated. With the riddance of CO2, the intake of O2 makes the blood richer and renews the blood tissues. Also, the constant movement of the diaphragm acts as a stimulant to the stomach, liver and pancreas. When practiced on a regular basis, it strengthens and increases the capacity of the lungs and intercostal muscles and also shows on the face with shine of good health and radiance.

  • Bhastrika

This is termed as the ‘King of Pranayama’ as the action of active inhalation and exhalation penetrates through the nerves directly, which is the antidote for all diseases. This exerecise is practically the combination of Kapalabhati and Ujjayi.
Both Kapalabhati and Bhastrika are pranayamas practiced to to increase the heat in the body as both activates the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore it is preferably used  before the asanas as a preparation for the workout.

  • Sitali and Sitkari

The final two pranayamas are both with a cooling effect, thus usually done after the workout to bring the body back to the normal temperature or during a hot weather. Cold air is felt during inhalation as the air goes through the curled tongue or in the part jaw, cooling the rest of the body as it goes into the esophagus, down towards the lungs. 
Both techniques are also very useful in calming the nervous system, and sitali in particular can alleviate nausea and symptoms of asthma.
By being conscious of our own breathing pattern, it eventually increases our bodily awareness, aids in relaxation and even tension and mild depression. With so many benefits proper breathing provide, let’s all start being aware of our own breath and work towards good health and vitality!

Ujjayi Breathing

The definition of Ujjayi is “victorious breath”, which refers to the expansion and uprising of the prana through the pranic channel between the ida and pingala which goes up from the bottom of the spine.  It is also recognised by the sound made in the back of the throat which is made by engaging the glottis, often it is explained as being a ‘snoring’ sound.  It could be described as the breathing building block for Yoga, as it is key to monitoring the flow of breath when performing almost all asanas and also cleanses the body internally; it is important to note it should be taught to beginners and regular Yoga practitioners often need to be reminded to use it as it also aids your endurance.
Key points to remember for personal practice or when explaining to classes:
–         Calm your mind
–         Remind your beginners this form of breathing is through the nose
–         Allow a brief pause at the top of each inhalation and bottom of each exhalation
–         Each inhalation and exhalation should be even and steady
–         Each inhalation and exhalation should be the same length of time
–         The volume of each inhalation and exhalation should be steady and not be so loud as to disturb your mind
–         Engage your core on inhalation
–         On inhalation imagine filling your torso with air from the bottom of the spine to the chest
–         Expand and lift your ribs simultaneously
–         On exhalation, breath evenly and imagine releasing the air from the top of the torso to the bottom
–         Aim for inhalation/exhalation to be 5 seconds for each breath

Brahmari Pranayama

Brahmari Pranayama = humming bee breath.
My first encounter with this Pranayama – We were told to sit in a comfortable position, close our eyes and relax. With lips gently close we inhale and upon exhalation we make a steady soft humming sound that goes.. “mmmmmm”. Inhale, “mmmmmmm”. Exhale, “mmmmmmm”….
My instructor told us that this is a good technique to have a sweet voice as it massages our voice box.  Class sounds funny because you get to hear pitches of high and low, cracking sounds which includes my own. At one point, i could even hear myself croak. The next day, i thought i sounded better. My voice box was not as frictional.  Psychological? I wonder. I treasure this technique though. The physical, psychological and mental effects work well for me.
A little sidetrack. Many years ago, i used to sing. For competitions and performances to earn some money to support myself through studies in University. I love to sing. Even though, I’ve always had sinus problems which affects me seriously on and off, they seem minute as they only visited me in the mornings. During my final year, i developed a serious sinus problem known as paranasal sinusitis. I was given 2 options.
1) To go for an operation to open more air passage for breathing
2) To be on nasal spray for long term. Usage – 3 times a day or up to 6 times if my sinuses was bad.
I chose the latter. After a few months, my sinusitis gets better, but i could not sing anymore. When i consulted an ENT specialist, he told me the nasal spray which contained steroids had numb my voice box. My last performance ended up with me cracking on a high note. I never sing again.
Brahmari was a whole new experience for me. Apart from the fact that it could pose as a recovery road for my already numbed voicebox, it has such calming effects. Initially, i tend to focus on my voicebox to stop myself from croaking. Subsequently as my breath gets smoother, my humming steadied. The humming caused vibration at the centre of the skull and it brought my awareness inwards to where the centre of vibration is. Gradually, i feel that my mind was no longer wandering. I feel at ease and it was as though i was able to see myself practicing this Pranayama. I felt tingling sensation flowing through my whole body right to my fingertips and toes and gradually flow back. I did not try to discover why i felt that way. All i know is that after each practice session which last about 20 -30 mins, i feel so relax that i want to sleep. Thus i usually practice at night before bedtime. It helps to get rid of dreams and interrupted sleep.
Long term practice of this Pranayama promotes a deep connection with the flow of Prana within your body. It also helps to alleviate insomnia,promotes concentration and boost memory, strengthen the voicebox and improves the quality of your voice. I feel the effect of this powerful and yet subtle Pranayama both inwards and outwards.

Bhastrika Pranayama To Stay in the Pink of Health

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika means bellows breath.
In this type of Pranayama the lungs expand and collapse like bellows of the blacksmith.
This pranayama consists of quick inhalation and exhalation and produces a lot of heat within the body. It can be performed with slow, medium or fast pace as per your capacity.  However, people who suffer from high blood pressure, hypertension, pregnant women, cancer, diabetes, lung problems are not advised to proceed with the practice.  Women go through their monthly menstrual periods are also not advise to practice.
The technique to perform this pranayama is as follows:

  • Sit in any meditative position with spine and head erect
  • Inhale quickly so as to expand your chest i.e. lungs are filled with air
  • Without retaining the breath quickly exhale the breath
  • Again inhale the breath and exhale as before

Perform such quick rounds of inhalation and exhalation slowly and steadily without putting too much pressure or force.  Practice 10 rounds of 10 quick inhalations and exhalations which total to 100.
Practicing this pranayama leads to glowing health and skin, clears sore throat, increases lung capacity, clears doubts and mental pain, helps in depression and so on.
Happy practicing.
Note: This pranayama should be practiced with proper guidance from a well qualified yoga teacher.  The author is not responsible for any injuries whatsoever that may arise from following the steps given above without proper guidance from the author.

Mantra for Pranayama

Hi All
Pranayama Mantra
Om pranasyedam vashe sarvam
Tridive yath pratiptitam
Matheva putran rakshasva
Shreescha pranjnaascha videhi na ithi
Om shantih shantih shantihi
Prana the vital force pervades all the three worlds (below the earth, the earth and above the earth)
All the activities are directed by prana
To that very prana we request to protect us as a mother protects her children.
We also request the prana to simulate our intellect.

Maintain your relationships by Ujjayi breathing

Now back to the main part. So how do you maintain your relationship?
You want to get the your the other half to listen and at the same time hear you out instead of putting you down all the time.
This is the practice known as “Ujjayi” breathing or pranayama technique.
Ujjayi Pranayama – With Bandhas (With Breath retention)
Sanskrit: Ud-jayi Ud=Upward or Superior; Jaya=Conquest/Victory. Also implies restraint or curbing

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika Says about Ujjayi:
Closing the mouth, inhale with control and concentration through the ida and pingala. so that the breath is felt from the throat to the heart and produces a sonorous sound.
This pranayama, called Ujjayi, can be done while moving, standing, sitting or walking. It removes dropsy and disorders of the nadis and dhatu.

Indications:Insomnia, Fluid retention in the body, High blood pressure, Nervousness, Phlegm in lungs
Contra-Indications:People who are excessively introverted should not practise this in excess. Those having heart disease or blood pressure should not practise with Bandhas.
For practise with Bandhas you should avoid alcohol, intoxicants and meat
Benefits of Ujjayi:

  1. Ujjayi is one of the pranayamas that all beginners should practise. It aids in quieting the tumultous, chaotic and outward going mind and helps it to increase its awareness of the internals. It is will also improve you practise of asanas greatly by increasing awareness of the changes happening within.
  2. Ujjayi is a tranquilizing pranayama and is profoundly relaxing at the psychic level and is very effective in soothing the nervous system or decreasing hyperactivity. The effects are obvious within a couple of days of practise.
  3. It is a good cure for insomnia if practised in a lying down posture Shavasana before going to bed. It also has a heating effect on the body and eliminates excess accumulated fluids in the body.
  4. Ujjayi promotes internalization of the senses (making the senses look inward) and is beneficial for the practise of meditation, and for the practise of pratyahara (which is one of the more advanced practises in ashtanga yoga).
  5. Finally, Ujjayi pranayama promotes a healthy relationship with spouses and partners alike. It can be the cure for a lot of relationship ills that has been marring couples through all ages.

Look out for more details in the next blog.