The word “Pranayama” is derived from “prana”, meaning vital force or energy, and “ayama” which means to expand. Therefore we can say that Pranayama is the expansion of the vital energy force in the body.
Prana exists in all living beings and by using pranic breathing techniques we can influence the flow of prana in the nadis (energy channels) of the pranayama kosha (energy body). This life force can be activated and regulated in order to achieve a higher state of vibratory energy and awareness.
The most important part of pranayama is breath retention, but before this is attempted it is important to first focus on the deep inhalation and exhalations to strengthen the lungs and balance the nervous system and pranic systems to prepare them for kumbhaka (breath retention). If these initial practices of pranayama are performed, they can purify, regulate and activate the prana in the nadis and induce physical and mental stability.
Kapalbhati can be practiced early in the morning, approximately 45minutes before sunrise. This practice energizes the body and mind, clears mucus from the nasal passages and strengthens and balances the nervous system. It involves passive inhalation, relaxing the abdominal muscles and active exhalation by contracting the pelvic floor muscles and exhaling through the nostrils. Beginners can practice 5 rounds of 10 breaths each. This type of pranayama is not recommended for people suffering from IBS, liver issues, kidney or UTI’s or any mental disease.
Bhastrika Pranayama is an active inhalation as well as an active exhalation of breath. It can be compared to a ballot, as the movement of air is very similar. Beginners can start with 15 breaths per round and gradually increase this to up to 30 breaths. This practice will heat up and energize the body. It can be done before a passive pranayama such as Anuloma Viloma which is performed by placing the left hand on the left knee in chin mudra, right hand in vishnu mudra and alternately inhaling through one nostril, and exhaling through the other. This type of breathing cools the body down and can also be practiced just before bed time.
Another type of pranayama to be performed before bed time or to relax the mind and body, is Nadi Shodhana. It is very similar to Anuloma Viloma, but after each inhalation the breath is retained for 8 seconds and then released through the opposite nostril. Inhaling through the right nostril first will activate the left side of the body to heat it up, and inhaling from the left nostril first will cool down the right side of the body. Some practices of pranayama such as Suriyaloma and Chandroma involve inhalation and exhalation through one nostril only and is usually practiced for healing and therapeutic purposes.
Bhramari Pranayama is a meditative pranayama which involves a shorter inhalation and a longer exhalation with a humble bee sound. Physically this practice will enhance the vocal chords and mentally will help the practitioner to relax. On a spiritual level Bhramari pranayama enhances the Vishuddha chakra or throat chakra.
The practice of pranayama should always be done on an empty stomach, or approximately 3 hours after eating.
By practicing pranayama daily we will greatly influence the quality and length of our lives.
It increases the absorption of energy by the energy body and enhances vitality and general wellbeing. 🕉