Types of Pranayama

Yoga has been in existence for thousands of years and it has been proven effective in treating medical disorders, diseases, and other such abnormalities. Every aspect of Yoga has a deep science behind it. Pranayama is a prominent part of yoga that is associated with breathing. And as we all know breathing is what keeps us alive and our bodies energetic, it evolved into a yogic activity. For many centuries, people didn’t know the power of breathing. It was yoga that came into the picture and taught them the potential of harnessing the power of breath. With this, Pranayama emerged as a significant yogic activity. 
Today, it is known for its health benefits as well as for spiritual awakening. Sometimes it is also regarded as the most important and powerful yogic learning. It is because pranayama corrects the nervous system and creates balance in the dynamism of your body. Here, we are going to learn about pranayama, its health benefits, different types of pranayama, and more. Whether you are taking a pranayama course online or visiting a yoga school, it is good to be prepared with a base knowledge of the science. 

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama comprises two Sanskrit words namely, Prana, which means life, and Yama, which means to control. So, it is all about controlling the life force inside your body. It is usually practiced by restraining breath and indulging in controlled inhalation and exhalation in order to feel the life and flow of energy within us. However, it has embraced various techniques over a period of time. According to the science of yoga, pranayama is considered as important to humans as life is to them.

As per ancient Hindu texts and culture, Pranayama has a history of thousands of years. It has been mentioned several times in the sacred book of Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, and numerous other texts. As per the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pranayama is regarded as one of the eight limbs of yoga and hence, it has become a part of yoga courses, Ayurveda classes, and more.

Stages of Pranayama

Pranayama consists of various breathing techniques that help in manipulating and harnessing the vital energy of the universe. It helps in controlling our mind and body by regulating our breath. And as it defines the balance in an individual’s life, it is taught by yoga gurus with sheer dedication. There are three stages of pranayama regardless of what technique you are using to practice it. You might be holding your breath for seconds or minutes, however, it doesn’t matter. The three stages of pranayama are:

                   

Purak

It is the stage where you indulge in the inhalation process. You breathe in air and force it into your lungs. However, you need to keep the duration of the purak uniform.

Kumbhak

It refers to the retention of air in your lungs for a while. It is also the suspension of breath and helps in increasing the heat of the body.

Rechak

The last stage is called exhalation. It is the process wherein you exhale the retained air with specific force and speed. During the practice of pranayam, rechak can be done either through one nostril or both nostrils. It all depends upon the type of pranayama you are performing.

Health Benefits of Pranayama

he major objective of pranayama is to maintain the balance between mind and body and to keep you physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Different pranayama techniques affect different parts of our body in different manners and that’s the reason they provide a wide range of health benefits to the practitioners. Some of the most significant health benefits of pranayama include:

It helps in the improvement of cognitive functions, thereby, providing the person with a better ability to think and learn. It makes people more active and energetic in daily life. 

Pranayama has been a proven method to improve mindfulness and hence, it facilitates stress and emotional regulation. 

By practicing different pranayama techniques people can strengthen respiratory muscles, which subsequently, will increase the capacity of the lungs.

Pranayama is also useful in controlling anxiety levels in a person. Its inhalation and exhalation techniques help in increasing focus and concentration, which eventually lowers anxiety and produces feelings of dissociation.

The pranayama practice can also help cure several respiratory problems, disorders, and diseases. It also helps in the control of the smoking habit of a person.

 It helps in improving the sleep cycle by reducing stress and fighting depression.

 If you suffer from high blood pressure, you can get rid of the problem by practicing the breathing techniques of pranayama every week.

Major Types Of Pranayama, Steps, and Benefits

Dirga Pranayama

One of the simplest types of pranayama, Dirga Pranayama is a three-part breath where you fill up your lungs, stomach, and other parts of the abdomen. If you are starting out and desire to go slow, then it is recommended to commence your journey with Dirga Pranayama. It is one of the fundamentals of yoga and is perfect for beginners.

How to do it?

  • Lay down on your back or sit upright and be comfortable enough to feel relaxed
  • Start breathing into your stomach until you feel it is full
  • Draw in more air to fill the rib cage
  • Take another breath to fill the chest
  • Now start with your upper chest and exhale slowly
  • Next release the air from the rib cage
  • Then exhale from your stomach part
  • Repeat the exercise about 15 times


Benefits:

It helps in the relaxation of the mind and body, provides a soothing effect to the nervous system, and increases focus.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

One of the most popular pranayama techniques amongst people, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is called Anuloma Viloma pranayama and is the practice of alternative nostril breathing.

How to do it?

  • Sit cross-legged and feel relaxed
  • Close your right nostril using your right thumb
  • Breathe in deeply from the left nostril and pause for a while
  • Use the pinky finger to close the left nostril and release the air from the right nostril
  • Now close your left nostril from your left thumb
  • Breathe in deeply from the right nostril and pause for a while
  • Use the pinky finger to close the right nostril and exhale deeply from the left nostril
  • Repeat it for about 10 times


Benefits:

It improves cardiovascular health and helps in the maintenance of the three doshas in life - Vata, Kapha, and Pitta. The practice also improves the patience and focus level of a person.

Ujjayi Prayanama

Also called the Ocean Breath, Ujjayi Pranayama is all about producing the rhythmic sound of ocean waves. It is one of the most used techniques in yoga classes today.

How to do it?

  • Be in a relaxed position
  • Breathe in from your mouth
  • Tighten the back of your mouth and then close it
  • Continue breathing from your nose while keeping the mouth tightened
  • Repeat the steps for about 10 times


Benefits:

It helps in reducing stress levels, thereby, providing a state of calmness and peace. As the practice helps slow down heart rate, it improves blood pressure and sleep pattern.

Surya Bhedana Pranayama

It is the right nostril breathing and is a technique to energize the body and produce warmth within ourselves. It is quite easy and hence, perfect for beginners to start out.

How to do it?

  • Sit in a comfortable position
  • Use your right index and middle fingers to close the left nostril
  • Inhale deeply from the right nostril
  • Then using your right thumb close your right nostril
  • Exhale from the left nostril
  • Repeat it about 10 times


Benefits:

The practice improves blood circulation and provides physical energy to the body. It also boosts the nervous system, clears sinuses, and balances Vata dosha. As it improves digestion, it helps in weight loss and delays aging too.

Viloma Pranayama

This breathing technique includes pauses while inhaling and exhaling air. As it is not a challenging practice, it is extremely easy to learn for new students.

How to do it?

  • Lie or sit in a comfortable position
  • Inhale for a few seconds until you fill one-third of your lungs
  • Pause for a while
  • Inhale again to fill the another third and pause
  • In the third go, inhale until your lungs are full
  • Now while exhaling, keep the pause pattern same
  • Repeat for about 10 times


Benefits:

It improves the functioning of the lungs and provides you with control over your breath. It helps in regulating blood pressure, anxiety, and tension. By practicing it, you can also treat menorrhagia, metrorrhagia, PMS mood swings & headaches, cold, cough, and other such problems.

Sheetali Pranayama

Named the Cooling Breath, Sheetali Pranayama is practiced to release the excess of heat in the body and mind.

How to do it?

  • Sit in a cross-legged position
  • Close your eyes
  • Keep the spine straight
  • Now curl your tongue and make an O shape with your lips
  • Inhale deeply as you feel the cooling effect of the air
  • Close your mouth
  • Exhale from your nostrils
  • Repeat the process for about 10 times


Benefits:

Controls excess Pitta and soothes mind, body, and soul. It improves digestion, cures inflammatory skin conditions, and provides mental calmness. Sheetali Pranayama is also known for reducing acidity, fever, and excess hunger.

Brahmari Pranayama

It is also named the Humming Bee Breath and is all about mimicking the sound of a honey bee while carrying out the breathing technique.

How to do it?

  • Sit in a comfortable position
  • Close your ears with your thumbs and eyes with your fingers
  • Inhale deeply from your nostrils keeping the mouth closed
  • Exhale while chanting “Om”
  • You will feel the vibrations and humming sound
  • Repeat the process for about 10 times


Benefits:

It helps in relieving hypertension and lowers blood pressure. It also improves the sleep cycle and provides a soothing effect on the mind and body.

Kapalbhati Pranayama

Also called the Breath of Fire, it is one of the most important and difficult techniques in pranayama and involves aggressive exhalation. 

How to do it?

  • Be in a relaxed position
  • Inhale deeply and use force to exhale
  • Make sure inhalation occurs naturally after forceful exhalation
  • Continue it for 50-60 cycles during the practice


Benefits:

By performing Kapalbhati every day, one can gain mental strength and hair growth. It helps in clearing the nasal tract and lungs and strengthening diaphragm muscles. It also claims to cure cancer, heart disease, and blood pressure issues. 

Bhastrika Pranayama

It is known as the Bellows Breath and unlike Kapalbhati Pranayama, it involves aggressive or forceful inhalation as well as exhalation.

How to do it?

  • Sit in a relaxed position
  • Inhale forcefully through your nostrils
  • Exhale forcefully during abdominal muscles 
  • After every 10 cycles take a deep breathe in
  • Hold your breath for as long as possible
  • Exhale slowly


Benefits:

It helps in treating fibrosis, energizes the mind, reduces anxiety and stress levels, improves motor functions, provides oxygen to the brain, and improves appetite and digestion.

Chandra Bhedana Pranayama

It is the left nostril breathing and hence, is the opposite of Surya Bhedana Pranayama. It helps in producing a cooling effect in the body as it 

How to do it?

  • Sit in a comfortable position
  • Relax your shoulders and body
  • Using your right thumb close your right nostril
  • Inhale deeply from the left nostril
  • Now use the right index and middle fingers to close the left nostril
  • Exhale from the right nostril
  • Repeat it about 10 times


Benefits:

It activates the lunar energy in the body, which will help you keep calm. It is perfect to practice during summers as it renders mental peace, cures insomnia problems, and reduces stress.

Join pranayama classes online today and learn all the techniques in detail from the best gurus and teachers!

Best Time to Do Pranayama

There is a certain way and time to practice pranayama in your daily life. As yoga is all about maintaining discipline and performing exercises with the right mindset, pranayama must be done with regulations.

Pranayama can be done at any time of the day, however, it is recommended to practice it early in the morning on an empty stomach. It should be avoided after meals, especially after taking heavy food. 

Tips For Beginners To Do Pranayama 

  • If you are starting out, take it slow and stop immediately if you feel uneasiness.
  • If you wish to notice the effectiveness of the techniques you are practicing, make sure to have patience.
  • If you suffer from specific health conditions, it is always recommended to consult a yoga guru, a pranayama practitioner, or your health doctor.
  • Never restrict your breath and make full use of your lung capacity.
  • Always have a gap of at least three hours between your meals and practice time
  • Focus on eating healthy, light, and rich food
  • You can also join online breathe work courses for guidance.