Prana is the vital energy of life, while pranayama is the control of breath – control of life force. The pranayama technique involves elongating the breath which expands the prana and cease the thoughts which results in gradual enlightment. Some examples of pranayamas includes Anuloma Viloma, Kapalabhati and Ujjayi breathing.
Firstly, Anuloma Viloma, or alternate nostrile breathing, is said to help calm the nerves, promotes concentration, improve restfulness and reduce stress. This can be done in a seated position, with the right hand in vishnu mudra (index and middle finger flexed), and left hand in Gyan mudra. In the morning, one will begin inhaling with the Right nostril while covering the left nostrile with the right ring finger. Follow by covering the right nostrile with the right thumb and exhaling from the left nostrile. Make sure to exhale fully and pause before inhaling from the opposite nostrile. For night time, start from the left nostrile instead to help to calm the nerves for relaxation. Do it for 10 rounds to reap the benefits of it, which includes reducing nervousness and anxiety.
Secondly, Kapalabhati breathing,which means skull shining breath, is a cleansing techique that is said to help relieve congestion and improve lung capacity. Kapalabhati is an invigorating breath that builds heat in the body. Therefore, it’s recommended to performed it in the morning or when you are feeling cold. To do it, one should sit upright and exhale completely. Then, inhale halfway through both nostrile and exhale sharply while pulling navel back and up towards the spine. The exhalation should be short and quick, while the inhale is short and passive, creating a pulse. It is not advisable to do more than 120 times. People who are pregnant or suffering from heart conditions and high blood pressure should also avoid it, as this techique might accentuate the conditions.
Thirdly, Ujjayi breathing is commonly referred to as ocean breath due to the sound of it. This breath is often used in ashtanga and vinyasa classes as it helps to focus the attention on the breathing and clears the mind. To do it, simply inhale slowly and fully through both nostrile
and constrict the back of your throat before exhaling slowly from your nostrile – this should create the sound similar to the ocean waves.
Personally, I have been doing both the Anuloma Viloma and Chapplapati daily and it helps to freshen up my body and calms my mind in the morning, which makes me feel more ready for the day ahead. At night, doing the anuloma viloma also helps to relax my muscles, especially from the soreness from exercising and the accumulated tension from a day’s work. During my practice, Ujjayi definitely aid in ceasing my thoughts, which in turn allows me to focus more on my movement. My practice always feels more stable and conscious when I incorporate Ujjayi breathing in it.