“Posture becoming established, a Yogi, master of himself, eating salutary and moderate food, should practice pranayama, as instructed by his guru.”
A. Pranayama Key Terms
- Kumbhaka: breath retention
bahir: retention after exhalation
antar: retention after inhalation (forceful inhale)
keval: cessation of breath, synonymous with samadhi
- Ida and Pingala: left and right nostril respectively
- Puraka: inhalation
- Rechaka: exhalation
- Nadis: energy channels of the body, those which pranayama aims to cleanse
B. Methods of Pranayama
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama:
Benefits: balances the mental and vital forces within the body through alternate nostril breathing with Kumbhaka for purifying the Ida and Pingala Nadis.
Closing the right nostril, and inhaling through the left, then closing the left, exhaling through the right, inhale through the right and repeat.
this method is excellent to precede meditation because of its calming and centering effects on the mind
Benefits: a dosha balancing method and sympathetic nervous system stimulator that increases vital energy in the body.
Eliminates wind or gas related trouble from the Vata Dosha; balances mucus from the Kapha Dosha; and bile/acidity from the Pitta Dosha.
how: practiced by inhaling with right nostril, then performing kumbhaka with bandhas (Jalandhar Bandha or Chin Lock, Moola Bandha or Anus lock and Uddiyan Bandha or Abdominal Lock) and exhaling through left nostril
Bhastrika: meaning bellow’s breath
benefits: stimulates circulation of cerebral fluid and aids compression and decompression in the brain; and the rhythmic diaphragm movements aid strength building for the core muscles and lungs
how: engage in forceful inhales and forceful exhales, operating the lungs exactly like a bellow
Followed by inhaling through the right nostril, then performing kumbukha with bandhas, and exhaling through the left.
Bhramari: humming bee breath
benefits: increases psychic sensitivity as well as ability to perceive subtle sound vibrations; reduces stress and other mental instabilities
how: press closed the ears with both thumbs, and place the middle and ring fingers lightly over the eyes, and pointer fingers on the forehead; then begin to hum in rounds imitating the sound of a buzzing be, focusing on the vibrations heard and felt within the head
Ujjayi: victorious breath
benefits: reduces high blood pressure in the body through the pressure placed on the carotid syncs, also useful for reducing anxiety and tension
how: inhalation through the nostrils by way of the throat. An audible sound should occur because of the compression of the epiglottis in the throat as the air passes through
Sitkari: hissing breath
benefits: cools the body and the blood, therefore removing excess heat in the body and diseases like hypertension and acidic tendencies.
how: slightly opening the lips over closed test, and inhaling through the teeth with a hissing sound; then perform kumbhaka with band has engaged and exhaling through nostrils
Shitali: cooling breath
benefits: same as Sitkari
how: roll the tongue and inhale through an open mouth, also follow by kumbhaka and bandhas, then exhale through the nostrils
Murchha: fainting breath
(for advanced practitioners, only under the guidance of a guru)
benefits: reduces blood pressure
how: inhale through the nostrils, engage kumbhaka with the bandhas, and then exhale with chin lock engaged. this practice reduces the blood pressure so much that it leads one to a state of “conscious unconsciousness”
Plavini: floating breath
benefits: removes many ailments of the stomach/digestive system
how: inhale (through the mouth if you like) to fill the stomach; hold the air to your capacity
Neti: cleaning of the nasal cavity to allow more space for clear breathing for pranayama practice. Relieves headaches, improves vision through clarity of eyes, and alleviates allergy symptoms
Jala Neti: warm (38-40 degrees) saline water is inserted into the nasal cavity by way of a spout to flush out mucus
Sutra Neti: threading a small tube through the nostrils and out the mouth to clear out the remaining mucus
Dhauti: internal cleansing
Contraindications: women should not perform any of the dhautis during their monthly cycle, as they shake up the internal balance and pressure system which can upset the hormonal structure needed for smooth menstruation.
Antar: internal digestive cleansing
- vatasara: passing air from the mouth through to the stomach and out the anus
- varisara: evacuating water out of the anus
- vahnisara: builds heat in the body via abdominal wall contraction combined with jalandhara banda
Danta: cleaning of the separate regions of the head relating to rejuvenation of the senses
- danta moola: cleaning of the teeth and gums
- jihva moola: cleaning of the tongue
- kapal randhra: washing the skull
- karna: cleaning the ears
- chakshu: washing the eyes (2).
Hrid: cardiac cleansing
- vastra: swallowing of the cloth
- danda: inserting a soft banana stem into the stomach
- vaman: swallowing saline water, and then vomiting it back up to cleanse the mucus lining in the stomach and esophagus
Basti: cleansing of the colon
- Jala: water sucked through the anus into the intestines and then expelled
- steal: same, with air
Tratak: cleansing of the eyes
Nauli: abdominal cleansing, dakshin—right, vamp—left, and madhyama center
Kapalbhati: detoxification of the mind via forceful breath