Pranayama

Pranayama where prana means life force, and yama means to suspend or restrain. Prana is found in all forms of life, from mineral to mankind, where its force controls and regulates every part of the body. Prana is in the air, but it is not oxygen. Food, water and air are only the media through which prana is carried. We absorb prana through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The easiest way to control prana is to regulate the breath so that every part of the body can be filled with prana and the entire body is under control.
According to the ancient yogic texts, prana circulates through the body in a network of 72,000 astral energy channels or nadis. These not only permeate every part of the body but also create an extensive energy field or aura. When we perform asanas, we apply pressure to points where important nadis cross which works like acupressure, unblocking vita energy. Yoga breathing exercises focus specifically on opening two major nadis – the pingala nadi and ida nadi. The pingala nadi corresponds to the right nostril and left hemisphere of the brain and the ida nadi to the left nostril and right brain. The most important nadi – Sushumna nadi is the nadi of the central cancal corresponding to the spine in the physical body. The saying goes as such that when the pingala and ida nadis are in balance, the sushumna opens, allowing vital energy to flow upwards and spiritual enlighten to occur.
One of the Five Principles of Yoga is Pranayama which promotes proper breathing. Proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama goes hand in hand with the Asanas. Through the practice of Asanas and Pranayamas, more Prana is taken in and stored in the body bringing great vitality and strength.
Two of the Pranayamas that have been with my practice for the past few years are Anuloma Viloma and Kapalbhati.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma).
In this Breathing Technique, you inhale through one nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the other nostril. With your right hand in Vishnu Mudra, Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale through the left nostil for 6 seconds and exhale throught the right nostril for 12 seconds. Then inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your left. Anuloma Viloma now becomes part of my busy life when I am really stress and couldn’t sleep. Anuloma Viloma being parasympathetic in nature promotes rest and energy conservation.
Kapalbhati panayama
I learnt about Kapalbhati panayama in hot yoga when we did a deep inhale and exhale through our mouth Kapalbhati is highly energizing abdominal breathing exercise. The focus is on exhalation and inhalation happens naturally. It helps to strengthen abdominal muscles and it helps to energize the mind for mental work. In Ashtanga Yoga, Kapalbhati is a cleansing breath technique that uses forceful exhalation and active abdominal flapping in reducing carbon dioxide levels in body. The breath is short, quick and strong. it is a quick exhalation and natural inhalation with air force or pump out from the lungs up through the nostrils. I guess there is no hard and fast rule, I like the Kapalbhati I learnt from the hot room and I will just continue letting it be part of my practice.

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