What is Pranayama : What does it mean : How does it help

Pranayama is the combination of two words i.e. ‘pran+ayama’, pran means life (breath), and ayama means control, means control of the life through regulation of the breath. In fact, it is a science of breathing. Yogis master and control all the forces of nature through the expert practice and control of pranayama such as walking upon the water, fire, wall, living buried alive for years, falling like a leaf and many such which we have heard, but, probably not seen. However, this is all true, Pranayama is and ancient technique of taking control of your breathing and open the door of liberation, and master all the forces.Pranayama is the best way to win over our diseases and fear. It gives you control over mind to provide hope, power, and faith to the human beings. Pranayama has its mention in the ancient yogic texts of Puranas, Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, GherandaSamhita, Siva Samhita etc.

Practising pranayama is must to experience and understand the spiritual process. It will take you to the core of cosmic life, through various yoga techniques to understand the concept of your body, mind, and existence of this life.Oxygen is the life, you cannot survive without breathing oxygen in. All the body processes require oxygen. In pranayama, breath is controlled through manipulation of the breathing process and motion of the lungs. One can control the pranic energy with pranayama and achieve higher states of awareness. If you can retain the breath for one minute, this one minute is added to your span of life.

The mind, thoughts and emotions is closely related to the breath. You can easily observe, when mind is calm, breathing is smooth; when mind is stressed breathing is fast; when mind is angry, breathing is fast and broken. Fickleness of mind can only be controlled by controlling of prana i.e. breath. Pranayama clears the emotional and physical obstacles to free flow the breath. Actual Pranayama means the holding up the process of exhaling and inhaling. This stage is quite serious and only years long practice and dedication may take you there. By taking the breath to the supreme level, yogis can defeat the death also.

How to do pranayama

Before starting this practice, you need to learn to sit long hours and be steady in your sitting posture. Sitting long hours give you mastery over the asana. One requires to sitat least from half to one hour to take up this practice. It is quite obvious to get lazy during the practice and go into sleep. One should be aware of this.

Pranayama has three components: inhalation or rechaka, exhalation or pooraka and retention or kumbhka. There are two stages of kumbhaka, holding or retaining breath after inhalation is called ‘AbhyantaraKumbhaka’, and after exhalation is called ‘BahyaKumbhaka’. Kumbhaka increases the life-span of an individual.

There are a number of pranayama one can practice such as:

Kapalbhati Pranayama

The word Kapalbhati is consist of two words: kapal meaning ‘skull’ and bhati meaning ‘shining, a regular practice of Kapalbhati pranayama brings glow on your face and makes you look beautiful.InKapalabhati we focus on the short and strong forceful exhalations by contracting the abdomen muscles with each exhalation.This forceful breathing blows away infectious and allergic materials from the body and cleans the respiratory system.

Anuloma-Viloma Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

AnulomVilomis the perhaps most popular and most practiced pranayama by all ages. It is very useful breathing technique which does not require much of the preparation like others. It can be performed by people of all ages as it does not have any side effects, and this is the best part.AnulomVilom is specially beneficial to conditions like sinus, respiratory problems, and asthma, even doctors advise so. It also helps with conditions like constipation, flatulence, diabetes, and obesity.

Surya Bhedan Pranayama (Right Nostril Breathing)

Right nostril is PingalaNadi, the purpose of the Right nostril breathing is to increase the Pranicenergy , the physical energy, and revitalize the body. It increases the efficiency of digestive system, also boosts the nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system.It increases the body temperature, which removes the Kafa (mucus) imbalance. This is very effective in obesity. Regular practice of Right nostril breath is used for weight loss.

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as Sahaja Pranayama or Ajapa Pranayama,requires deep breathing (as in our sleep) with a focus on the flow of the breath, one needs to make sure that he does not fall asleepduring the process and remain full conscious.

It is an ideal pranayama for meditational purposes. It is said to take you to the SamadhiAvastha i.e. higher level of consciousness. It normalizes high blood pressure, drives away negative thoughts, and help with digestive problems.

According to old scriptures, there is one story in the Puranas about Ujjayi Pranayama:

When gods and demons were churning the deep waters of the ocean, for its invaluable treasures, finally appeared the pot ofAmrita (the nectar of immortality) blended with deadly poison. Bothe the parties wanted to get hold of this, however, poison was strong enough to destroy the whole Universe. Then Lord Shiva came to rescue, he drank and stored it in the Vishuddhi Chakra with the help ofUjjayi Pranayama only. This shows the power of this pranayama.

Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breathing)

Bhramari pranayama is very calming, one of the best breathing exercises to release frustration or anger. It is very simple to perform anywhere at work or home. The breathing technique resembles to the humming sound of bee. This sound is known as Bhramari.

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika pranayama is all about inhaling and exhaling completely to receive maximum amount of oxygen in your lungs. We apply force while inhailing and exhailing and focus should be on expanding the chest area rather than abdominal. It helps to remove toxins, cures respiratory problems, boosts the supply of oxygen and purifies blood, and prevents common cold.

Shitali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)

In Sanskrit, the word “sheetal” means cool or cold. As the name suggests, this breathing technique reduce the body temperature, calms the mind, and cools the body. It makes the blood pressure low, gives control over hunger and thirst. In this practice, once has to roll the tounge in the tube shape.

It is done usually at the end of all the asanas and pranayama to relax the body. This pranayama is very effective for hyperacidity and nervous system. It makes you younger. 10 minutes Shitali Pranayama is enough to get your stress out.

Sitkari Pranayama (Teeth Hissing)

Sitkari refers to the hissing sound when suddenly touching very cold or a hot object. This sound is the main concept of this pranayama which is produced while inhaling through the front teeth. Sitkari has almost the same effect as discussed above in the Shitali Pranayama. It helps to cool your body, relax your mind, control your thirst, hunger, and laziness as well.

Murcha Pranayama

Murcha means retention i.e. retention of the breath. In this technique, we hold the breath as long as possible. You may feel faint when holding the breath forcefully. Murcha pranayama is the best technique to measure your success in the overall pranayama practice. Because, as discussed above, main purpose of the pranayama is to hold the breath i.e. prana inside, and reach to the higher level of consciousness.

Plavini Pranayama (Floating Pranayama)

In Sanskrit, Plavini means floating, Plavini pranayama is the perhaps most simple and precious technique of breathing where we just do regular breathing without applying any technique. It is more of a swallowing the air into the belly so that stomach get bloated. It is said that with practice of this Pranayama, one gains the power to float on the water. Even an expert can even float on waterlike a lotus leaf. Perhaps, this is how yogis used to get power to walk on the water.

Gautam Trehan

Would love to hear from you! You can write/ask me anything! at [email protected] Happy Reading!