In this modern society, yoga, particularly Pranayama is gaining a lot of importance in the recent years. It can facilitate peace in mind and body.

Prana means Life force and Yama means Control on the prana.

India is the land where Pranayama and Yoga originated. Different forms of Pranayama have evolved over the years and is followed in almost all parts of the world. Regular practice of Pranayama can provide numerous health benefits.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is a formal practice of breathing and controlling the breathing in a way that helps you gain more energy and health. The breathing is done in a particular posture and breathing through the nostrils only. The Prana flows through all our important energy nodes called Chakras. There are seven chakras in a human body.

  1. Sahasrara (Crown)
  2. Ajna (Third eye)
  3. Vishuddha (throat)
  4. Anahata (Heart)
  5. Manipura (Solar plexus)
  6. Swadhisthana (Sacrum)
  7. Muladhara (Root)

When the Prana flows through all the chakras smoothly, it gives a state of mind where the mind is calm, positive and happy. On an average person, the chakras may be blocked either partially or fully, which will create stress, fear, tension, fight and many negative impacts. When Pranayama is practiced regularly, the chakras open and gives a positive state of mind.

Pranayama consists mainly of 3 stages – Inhalation, retention and exhalation.

  • When you breathe in, it is Pooraka.
  • When you hold the breath, it is Kumbhaka.
  • When you exhale, it is Rechaka.

What happens when you do Pranayama?

Regular practice of pranayama can make you feel many good changes in your  body and mind.

  • Treats people who suffer from asthma and allergies by increasing the capacity and functioning of the lungs.
  • It improves the autonomic functions.
  • Reduces stress, anxiety and fear.
  • Reduces oxidative stress.
  • Facilitates steady mind and positive energy.
  • Helps better decision making and enthusiastic approach.
  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Prevents cardiovascular diseases.
  • Facilitates weight loss.

When can you practice Pranayama?

It is always best to practice around 6 in the morning or 6 in the evening. When you practice during dawn or dusk, you can enjoy the optimum benefits. There is no harm in practicing Pranayama at any time of the day. Make sure that you do not practice immediately after eating. You need at least 2 hours gap after a meal, 1 hour gap after a beverage and 1.5 hours gap after a snack.

Please note: Anyone can perform Pranayama. There is no restriction for menstruating or pregnant women, children or old people. Everyone can practice pranayama and enjoy the benefits from it.

How to do Pranayama?

Though it is just a simple breathing practice, learn it only from a professional yoga teacher. Please do not follow the instructions from a book, notes from somebody else or images from the internet. If you do it wrong, it might backfire.

How long will a Pranayama practice take?

There are different forms of Pranayama. You can choose which posture suits you best and learn it. Pranayama can take 10 to 15 minutes of your time. You may increase the time span if you want.

Different types of Pranayama

There are more than 50 types of Pranayama techniques which involve different postures. Am going to list down 5 basic and popular practices.

Bhastrika Pranayama

In this practice, you need to take deep inhalation by expanding your tummy muscles and exhale slowly and completely by constricting the stomach muscles. You need to exhale with sound very slowly. This is very effective for people who suffer from asthma and lung diseases. It also improves mental health and facilitates weight loss.

Kapalbhati Pranayama

In this practice, inhalation will be normally done and exhalation will be done forcefully. This practice helps to reduce tummy fat, regulates sugar levels and improves the function of stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas and kidney. It also improves blood circulation.

Bahya Pranayama

In this practice, you need to inhale to the full capacity of your lungs and exhale completely (empty your lungs). After which, you need to bend your neck, so that your chin touches the chest area, hold your breath for few seconds and exhale it out. This cures constipation, acidity, hernia and issues with bladder.

Anulom Vilom Pranayama

This is the practice where you alternate nostril closure and practice deep breathing. This practice can help you increase memory power, improves blood circulation, improves eye health and reduces/prevents cardiac diseases.

Udgeeth pranayama

In this practice, you need to inhale completely and exhale with the sound AUM. This practice helps to calm down the mind, increases stability, reduces – tension, anger, and anxiety. This process also improves memory and good sleep.

These practices have been named differently by different gurus. However, practicing regularly will be life changing for many.

Please note – Different types of Pranayama specified here are not exhaustive and serve only for the basic understanding of the process. Do not practice pranayama by following just the instructions written in this article – these are merely high level guidelines. Reach out to a professional yoga teacher to learn the techniques and its nuances.

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.