Prana means ‘ vital force ‘ and Ayama means ‘ control ‘ in Sanskrit. Thus Pranayama means the control of the vital force through concentration and regulated breathing. By means of controlled breathing that is, inhaling and exhaling by holding the breath for a fixed time and changing the rhythm of inspiration and expiration, it is possible to influence the life-force in the body. Pranayama is the process by which such conscious control is achieved through controlled and rhythmical breathing .
Pranayama purifies the channels along which the life stream of ‘prana’ flows in the body and prevents various disorders. It increases one’s resistance to respiratory diseases. The best position in which to practice pranayama is the padmasana or lotus pose.
If for some reason that position is difficult to adopt, it can be done while sitting in any comfortable pose. The important thing is to keep the back, neck and head in a straight line. The body should be in its natural relaxed condition and this can be achieved by resting a few minutes in shavasan. If necessary, use your right finger and thumb on either side of the nose to control the right and left nostrils during inhalation and exhalation.
In practicing pranayama, a ratio of two to one should be maintained throughout, that is, the exhalation time should be double that required for inhalation. For instance, if inhalation takes 5 seconds, exhalation should take 10 seconds. Both inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and quiet.
Some varieties of pranayama beneficial in the treatment of common ailments are as follows :
This is also known as Nadishuddhi pranayama. Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, keeping your head,neck and spine erect. Rest your left hand on your left knee. Close your right nostril by pressing the tip of your right thumb against it. Breathe out slowly through the left nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed. Close your left nostril with the little finger and ring finger of your right hand and exhale through the right nostril. Then inhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed and, lastly, exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed.
This completes one round of anuloma-viloma. Repeat the entire process. Inhaling and exhaling should be done very slowly, without making any sound. This pranayama is a process of purification. It strengthens the lungs and calms the nerves. It helps cure cough and cold, insomnia, chronic headache and asthma.
Sit in any comfortable meditative pose. Inhale slowly, deeply and steadily through both nostrils with a low uniform sound through the glottis. Hold your breathe for a second or two after inhaling and then exhale noisily only through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed. Do this as often as required.
This pranayama clears the nasal passage and helps the functioning of the thyroid gland and benefits respiratory disorders, especially bronchitis and asthma. Persons suffering from high blood pressure should not practice ujjayi.
‘Bhastrika’ means ‘bellows.’ It is performed by instant and quick expiration of breath. There are many varieties of bhastrika. The simplest technique is as follows :
Sit in padmasana. Do 20 strokes of kapalbhati. Inhale and exhale rapidly, making a puffing sound. This is a good exercise for abdominal viscera and lungs.
Sit in padamasana or any other comfortable posture. Stick your tongue out about an inch from the lips, rolled up at the sides to form a channel like a bird’s beak. Suck in air through the channel. After a full inhalation, slowly close your mouth, hold your breath and exhale slowly through both nostrils. This completes the exercise. Repeat as required.
This pranayama cools the body and mind, activates the liver and bile and has beneficial effects on the circulation and body temperature.
In sitkari a sound is produced while inhaling by opening the mouth a little, placing the tip of the tongue against the lower front teeth and then sucking the air in slowly. After holding your breath, exhale through both nostrils. This exercise helps to control thirst, hunger and laziness.
‘Surya-nadi ‘ is the right nostril and ‘ChandraNadi’ is the left nostril. In this pranayama, one always uses the right nostril for inhalation. Sit in padmasan or any other suitable posture. Keep your head, neck and back straight. Inhale through the right nostril. Hold your breath and then exhale through the left nostril. Hold your breath and then exhale through the left nostril. Repeat as often as required.
This pranayama increases gastric juices and helps digestion. It also fortifies the nervous system and clears the sinuses.
In this pranayama, the buzzing sound of a bee is produced and hence it is called bhramari. Keep your mouth closed while inhaling. Exhale through both nostrils, producing the humming sound of a bee. This pranayama affects the ears, nose, eyes and mouth and makes the complexion glow. It also helps those suffering from insomnia.
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