Pranayama is considered of paramount importance in Yoga. This is one of the yogic practices that are safest but critical to do when it comes to yoga at home. The word Pranayama is made of two basic Sanskrit words Pran = Life or Universal Life Energy. Ayam = to Extend and Elongate. Thus Pranayama means ‘an exercise which is to be performed if you want to extend your life. Pranayama is the fuel of life.
Here is an interesting analogy, you might be familiar with the existence of the seven (7) chakras along the spine, which are considered the energy points sustaining life and health. Your regular yoga at-home routine might not reveal much about them but anyway. If these Chakras are the rotating windmills that produce energy to sustain life, then prana is the essential wind energy that makes the hands of a windmill rotate, to produce that energy. When we breathe in general or when we do yoga at home we take in the essential oxygen along with the all-pervading Prana. (And when we breathe out we push out the expended energy and toxins out of our body).
Ayurveda calls our digestion ‘Jathar Agni’ literally meaning ‘digestive fire’, it compares our digestive process with a ‘Yadnya’ – A holy Pyre, where things are offered to the gods. And the ‘Prana’ we take in, is the fuel for this holy Yadnya.
When we practice Pranayama or yoga at home, we regulate and streamline the process of drawing in the universal life force and thus enhancing our health and longevity.
Practices of Pranayama
There are more than 50+ Pranayama techniques that are not easily available to the common public and might not be possible to include in the practice of yoga at home. One has to actively search for them in various scriptures and Upanishads, or find a competent teacher because pranayama works wonders and is nearly miraculous in its effectiveness.
We tell you 3 basic pranayama that is used widely among yogis and you can include them in your routine of daily yoga at home. However, we get there and have an understanding of some basic terms used in the practice of pranayama.
Some Important Terminologies
To inhale into the full capacity of your lungs. Also, when you inhale don’t expand your stomach instead fill all the air in your chest.
(‘Kumbh’ means a pot or a round utensil) To hold the inhaled air in your lungs.
To exhale every ounce of air out of your lungs.
Bandh or Lock terminologies
Jalandhar Bandh –
To close your windpipe by pressing your chin against the base of your neck.
To contract your abdomen and try to suck in your stomach so that it will touch your spine.
To pull in your anal muscles. (it is as if you have to go to the toilet but are not able to find one nearby and you have to hold it in.)
Seating Position for performing Pranayama
Most of the Pranayama is to be performed while sitting in Sukhasan position.
Sukhasan (the Simple Sitting Pose)
- Sit on the mat with your legs stretched in front.
- Fold the right leg and tug in below the left thigh.
- Then, fold the left leg and tug it between the right thigh and calf.
- Sit straight with an erect spine.
(It is how we generally sit on the floor and fold our legs.)
Bhastrika Pranayama/ Bellow Breath
How to do Bhastrika Pranayama:
Sit in Sukhasan and form the dnyanamudra with your hands and place them on your knees with your palms facing upwards.
(‘Dnyanamudra’ is formed when you join the tips of your index finger and your thumb while keeping your other fingers outstretched.)
Close your eyes.
Inhale to your full capacity; hold your breath in for a couple of seconds and then exhale slowly.
When you inhale, fill the air into your lungs and expand your chest while inhaling and it will press your diaphragm down;
Do not expand your stomach while inhaling.
Concentrate completely on your breathing and pay attention to how you feel with every breath you take while practicing yoga at home.
Visualize every breath nourishing all the parts of your body.
Perform this Pranayama for at least 3 minutes.
This is a nourishing exercise and it enhances your digestive capabilities and creates heat in the body.
- It helps in burning excess fat.
- It helps in reducing the amount of phlegm.
- It is very effective in cases of Asthma.
- It strengthens your Lungs.
- It helps in purifying blood and facilitates efficient blood circulation.
Anulobh-Vilobh Pranayama/ Pranayama of complete Detox
How to do Anulobh-Vilobh Pranayama:
Sit in Sukhasan and form the dnyanamudra with your left hand and place it on your left knee with your palms facing upwards.
Close your eyes.
Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand and inhale through your left nostril till your lungs are full.
Then close your left nostril with the ring and middle finger of your right hand and exhale through your right nostril.
Inhale back through your right nostril then close your right nostril with the thumb and exhale through your left nostril, then inhale back through your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril.
Pay attention to it that, you inhale through the same nostril that you have
used to exhale. And see to it that there is no hurry while doing this Pranayama. Be comfortable, and calm and perform it slowly, especially if you do yoga at home and not under the supervision of a yoga teacher.
At first, perform it for 3-4 minutes when doing yoga at home and then with practice, gradually increase the time to 12-15 minutes.
- It is the most effective detox exercise.
- It throws all the toxins out of the body through your breath.
- It is an excellent cure for hypertension.
- It is very helpful in curing ear disorders.
- When performed regularly, it prevents the occurrence of cancer.
- It is found to be helpful in curing leukoderma.
- It is very helpful in curing bronchitis.
Bhramari Pranayama/Pranayama of the Hornet
How to do Bhramari Pranayama:
Sit in Sukhasan.
Close your eyes.
Then close your ears with your thumbs, place your index fingers on your forehead, place the remaining three fingers on your eyes and press the ridge between your eyes slightly with your middle finger.
Inhale to your full capacity; hold your breath in for a couple of seconds.
Then keeping your mouth closed, exhale slowly while making the ‘Aum’ sound (Om Chant).
(This step creates a sound similar to the buzzing of a hornet’s wings hence the name.)
No specific duration. Repeat it at least 2-3 times.
- This Pranayama is extremely essential for maintaining the health of your throat and thyroid.
- It cures any hoarseness of voice caused by any illness.-Regular practice of this Pranayama increases your concentration and also calms your mind after a rigorous session of yoga at home.
- You’ll feel a soothing peace and calmness when you perform this Pranayama regularly.