(I will be updating this blog if and when I find compelling information about Pranayama as I deepen my practice -- TheLoneRider)
pranayama - in yoga, it is the exercise of regulating the breath - the inhalation, exhalation and the breath-holds
kumbhaka - a type of pranayama where you hold the breath - either on the inhale (antara kumbhaka) or on the exhale (bahya kumbhaka)
asana - the physical yoga pose
nadi - these are the energy channels within the psychic body, responsible for energy (prana) distribution. Analogy - an intricate road system within a city
surya - sun, masculine, high energy
chandra - moon, feminine, recovery and healing
bhedan - penetration
bhastrika - bellows
prana - the life energy that permeates our universe. Other cultures call it 'chi' or 'qi'.
Human Shelf life In the Indian culture, the longevity of a human life is predetermined by the number of breaths taken in a lifetime - not the number of years (e.g. - a boy is born with a pre-ordained 2 million breaths. If he uses up those 2 million breaths in 30 years, his life will end at age 30). This is a powerful statement because it means you can extend your life by regulating the breath (if this boy slows down his breathing or holds it between inhalation and exhalation to a point he uses up 2 million breaths in 31 years, then he extends his life by 1 year).
Nadis Nadis are energy channels within our psychic body. Like capillaries, they form an intricate matrix (or road system) throughout the body for energy distribution. It is said there are 72,000 nadis in the human body. Prana is distributed in our system through the nadis. If the nadis are blocked, prana cannot flow through - that is when sickness occurs. Example - if the nadis in our kidneys are blocked, prana or the life energy cannot enter our kidney. We begin to suffer kidney failure or kidney disease in the process. Through pranayama (and asana), we clear the blockages in the nadis and allow the free-flow of prana and this restores the body back to health.
Prana Contrary to popular belief, prana is NOT just in the air we breathe, although it is affected by our breath. We already have prana within our system. Prana can be exercised and strengthened in the same way we exercise our muscles by lifting weights. Our prana is what keeps us alive. Prana is a sheath around the body, extending to 12 inches outside the physical body. The more we breathe, the more we use up prana. The less we breathe, like while being in a meditative state, we more we conserve our prana and thus extend our life. Pranayama should be done at least 4 hours after the last meal.
Superman Effect Breathing sounds so simple it's almost dismissive - we breathe day-in and day-out, so what's special about it? Out of curiosity back in Feb 2008, I toyed with pranayama as I was reading a Sivananda Yoga book. After doing it for half a day, I experienced what I would call the superman-effect. It gave me a first-hand account of just how powerful this exercise is. Since that epiphany, pranayama has always been a part of my yoga practice. I follow my asanas with pranayama then meditation. I feel that those three in combination provide a synergistic effect that asana alone cannot deliver. I also integrate such combination whenever I conduct a yoga class, even abbreviating the asana portion just to accommodate the pranayama and meditation within a one hour session.
Caution Pranayama is a double-edged sword and thus need to be done with caution or done with someone who understands pranayama. I would liken it to fire. If you know what you are doing, the fire can cook your food. If you don't know what you're doing, it will burn your house down...and even burn you.
Simon Borg-Olivier doing pranayama
Types of Pranayama slow, thin and deep nose breathing only unless specified otherwise
do this on an empty stomach
ensure you are seated comfortably with sit bones centered and a straight back
Nadi Shodhana(alternate nose breathing - other texts say this is the same as Lom Anulom Vilom)
Method: long and thin breathing. Cover the right nostril and breathe-in to the left. Hold as long as you can. Close the left nostril and exhale slowly on the right nostril. Hold as long as you can. Breathe-in to the right nostril. Hold as long as you can. Exhale slowly on the left nostril. Hold as long as you can. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Effect: clears the energy channels
Benefits: purifies the blood and respiratory system, balances left and right brain
For Whom: for everyone
Method: forceful and rapid exhalation by contracting the abdomen
Benefits: weight loss, strengthens the body by forcing more prana into the system
For Whom: for people who want to lose weight, fortify their body, making it resistant to disease
Surya Bhedan(right nose breathing)
Method: breathing on the right nostril only
Effect: activates the sympathetic nervous system - fight or flight for energy surge
Benefits: increases energy levels and makes you full of life
For Whom: for people who are down, lethargic or suffering from depression
Chandra Bhedan(left nose breathing)
Method: breathe on the left nostril only
Effect: activates the para-sympathetic nervous system - recovery, relaxation and healing
Benefits: slows down the energy flow, relaxes the mind and calms the body
For Whom: for people who are stressed and agitated. For people who want to fall asleep (for insomniacs)
Lom Anulom Vilom(alternate nose breathing w/o the breath hold)
Method: cover the right nostril and breathe-in to the left. Short pause. Close the left nostril and exhale slowly on the right nostril. Short pause. Breathe-in to the right nostril. Short pause. Exhale slowly on the left nostril. Short pause. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Benefits: balances the energy levels in the body and mind
For Whom: for everyone
Surya Bhastrika(rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on the right nostril - other texts would have it as a right nostril inhalation but left nostril exhalation)
Method: close the left nostril then rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on the right nostril. Sustain without straining. Last inhalation, hold the breath and chin tuck for as long as you can. Then tilt the head up and resume normal breath.
Benefits: fills up with energy and vitality
For Whom: for people who need to be energized, for people who are sad, forlorn and feeling down
Chandra Bhastrika(rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on the left nostril - other texts would have it as a left nostril inhalation but right nostril exhalation)
Method: close the right nostril then rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on the left nostril. Sustain without straining. Last inhalation, hold the breath and chin tuck for as long as you can. Then tilt the head up and resume normal breath.
Benefits: calms the mind and relaxes the body
For Whom: helps people go to sleep and calm down
Surya Chandra Bhastrika(alternate rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation)
Method: close the right nostril then rapid and forceful inhalation on the left nostril. Close the left nostril followed by rapid and forceful exhalation then inhalation on the right nostril. Close the right nostril followed by rapid and forceful exhalation then inhalation on the left nostril. Repeat for 5 minutes. Last inhalation, hold the breath and chin tuck for as long as you can. Then tilt the head up and resume normal breath.
Benefits: balances and energizes the body and mind
For Whom: for everyone
Bhastrika(rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on both nostrils)
Method: rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation on both nostrils
Benefits: energizes the body and boosts memory power
For Whom: for everyone
Ujjayi(deep and steady breathing that rubs behind the throat and produces an audible hissing sound)
Method: long, thin, deep and steady breathing that rubs behind the throat and produces an audible hissing sound
Benefits: reduces stress and calms mind
For Whom: for everyone
Shitali(tongue between teeth inhale)
Method: mouth inhale while tongue is lightly pressed between teeth, and exhaling to the nose
Benefits: lowers body temperature
For Whom: for people who need to cool down due to hot temperature
Shitkari(rolled tongue between teeth inhale)
Method: mouth inhale while tongue is rolled lengthwise, holding the breath with a chin-tuck and exhaling to the nose
Benefits: cools the body
For Whom: for people who are sweating a lot and need to cool down
Method: thumbs on the ears and the rest of the fingers covering the eyes, inhale to the nose and make a bee humming sound on the exhale
Benefits: clears the mind and improves hearing, instantly calms the mind down
For Whom: for people who are agitated and irritated, reduces blood pressure
Murchha(loud exhale through the mouth)
Method: nose inhale and loud exhale through the mouth
Benefits: gives glow to skin, increases stamina, reduces stress
For Whom: for people who want good skin
Ending Thoughts I find it fascinating that this reservoir of immense power is free and readily accessible. But I remain baffled that people still subscribe to medication and pills to find artificial strength and vigor. My gratitude to the ancients for preserving this powerful technique and sharing it to the free world at large. Who would have thought that the mundane breathing, when properly executed and regulated, could be so powerful? Pranayama is perhaps the most under-rated thing on the planet now.
ps - If you want me to participate and write about your yoga studio or your yoga practice, email me. For my complete yoga profile, you can visit this page: Yoga by Gigit
Rosel Doval Santos (Oct 24, 2016) The article warns of the dangers of the misuse of pranayama. It suggests the need for guidance. The focus of yoga is enlightenment, not the physical body. We should not lose sight of that. A friend of mine became afflicted with heart disease after wrongful application of pranayama. Yet those who know,!use it to insulate consciousness from the vibrations of the outside world in the pursuit of higher yoga. Shanti.
Oct 24, 2016