Home
Profile
Yoga
Yoga Classes
Massage
Blogs
Holidays
Holiday Lets
Yoga in Asia
Yoga Online
Meditation Online
Pranayama
Mudras & Bandhas
Photo Gallery
Shop
Donations
Yoga Artwork
About Bulgaria
Guest Book
Media & PR
Links
Contact Me
 If you have any feedback on how we can make our new website better please do contact us. We would like to hear from you.
 

What is Pranayama?

The purpose of Yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) is to develop a healthy and balanced body and mind.

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word formed by two words – Prana and Ayama. Prana means life-force, giving energy to the body and the mind. Ayama is the voluntary effort to control and direct this prana. Pranayama in essence is the way to control the flow of the breath.

Prana can also be translated as ‘vital energy’ and ‘breath of life’. Yogi Svatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:3 states that

‘when there is prana in the body, it is called life; when it leaves the body, it results in death. So one should practice pranayama.’

This is just one indication of how important prana and breathing actually is. Everything in the human, animal and plant kingdom is dependent on air in order to survive. There is not one life form that can live without breath or prana.

Prana is also linked to the mind. When there are fluctuations in the mind the breath is also restless. We are all aware of how our breathing is affected during emotional states such as anger, fear or nervousness. For example, when we become angry, the breath becomes faster and we can lose control of a regular breathing pattern. The emotions and mental processes are related to our nervous system and through it they change our breathing. That is why it is so important to develop positive attitudes and thoughts.

 
The Practice and Benefits of Pranayama

The basic principles behind breathing are inhalation (puraka), exhalation (rechaka) and retetion of the breath (khumbaka). These are practiced in various ways providing numerous benefits for the body and mind. During deep meditation breath becomes suspended for a short period of time, it is this interval that constitutes itself as Pranayama.

The purpose of Pranayama is two-fold. It helps to not only improve the quality of the breath, but also to remove distractions from the mind enabling easier concentration and meditation.

Yogi Svatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:16-18 states that

‘By proper and careful practice of pranayama one attains optimum health, a peaceful, steady mind and a firm and lustrous body free from disease.’

When practicing Pranayama find a place that is warm and comfortable where you will not be disturbed. Sit on a folded blanket or cushion in a suitable meditative position. The posture you choose to sit in should allow you to keep your back erect and you should be able to sit comfortably and relaxed with your eyes closed.

Precautions

Do not practice asanas immediately after long periods of pranayama.

Do not practice pranayama immediately after meals.

When practicing pranayama do not force or strain the breath.

 

Abdominal Breathing (Adham Pranayama)

       Place the palms of your hands lightly on your abdomen and be aware of the movement in this area as you breathe in and out. Breathe out slowly, as you exhale feel your abdomen contract, your navel will move toward your spine.

      Hold your breath for a count of one or two.

      Inhale, without expanding your chest or moving your shoulders. Feel the abdomen expand, the navel moving upwards. The breathing should be deep and slow.

      Hold the breath for one or two counts.

      Exhale again slowly and completely. Feel the contraction in your abdomen. Hold the breath for a short time, inhale and repeat the whole process twice more.

      Now move your hands to your back and rest the palms on your lower back, with the fingers pointing towards the spine. Concentrate on the movement of the lungs beneath your hands as you breathe in and out.

      Repeat the same breath work as you did for the abdomen.

 

Equal Breath (Sama Vritti Pranayama)

This practice is good for stress relief and helps to develop an awareness of the breath. It helps to focus the mind and is good for concentration. It is a balancing practice and is helpful to calm the mind. 

      Be aware of your normal breathing pattern. Sit quietly for a few minutes.

      Now make the exhalation and inhalation last for four counts. Continue this practice for five rounds.

      Now increase the length of the inhalation and exhalation to six counts. Continue this practice for five rounds.

      If the breath is still comfortable increase the inhalation and exhalation to eight counts. Again practice five rounds.

      Now begin to reduce the length of the breath. First inhale and exhale for a count of six for five rounds. Then inhale and exhale for a count of four for five rounds.

      Now return to breathing naturally without controlling the breath.

      Sense how your body and mind feels. It should feel relaxed, calm and balanced.

 

Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari)

This is a restorative and soothing practice helping to take the focus internally. It helps to calm the emotions and relieves anxiety. By listening inwardly it helps us to become aware of ourselves and helps to improve our sense of well-being.

       Find a comfortable sitting position and focus on the rhythm of your breath.

      Place your index fingers over the lobes of the ears and gently press. Try to keep the face, neck and shoulders relaxed during the practice.

      Close your eyes and slowly take the awareness first to the abdomen, then to the chest, the throat and then the head.

       Take a long inhalation and as you exhale make a humming sound. This is one round. Repeat for ten rounds.

      Be aware of your exhalation and inhalation lengthening.

      Take your awareness to the humming sound and observe any vibrations in your face, throat, head and chest.

After the practice sit quietly keeping your eyes closed, aware of how the body and mind feels.

 

Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Sodhana)

This practice helps to balance the flow of energy between the left and right side of the body and helps to purify the energy channels (nadis). It is beneficial prior to meditation helping to balance and re-center the mind.

       Sit comfortably with a straight spine. Allow the back of the left hand to rest on the left thigh. Touch the thumb and index finger together – this is chin mudra.

      Take the right arm and place the thumb over the right nostril and the ring finger over the left nostril with the middle fingers resting between the eyebrows. This is called nose mudra.

      Gently close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. At the end of the inhalation, close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right nostril.

      Keeping the left nostril closed now inhale through the right nostril. After the inhalation close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round.

       Continue the practice for up to twelve rounds.

      As you become more comfortable with the practice begin to lengthen both the inhalation and the exhalation, making them even in length.

      Don’t try to force and the breath. Make the breath relaxed so that it flows comfortably without strain.

      When you have finished the practice place your right hand onto your right thigh and practice chin mudra. Sit for a few minutes allowing the breath to flow naturally.

      Be aware of the quality of the breath a how your body and mind feel.

 

Warming Breath (Ujjayi)

This breath is quite an energising breath and is also known as the ‘victorious’ or ‘expanding’ breath. The breath is kept high in the chest rather than in the abdomen. It can be used throughout asana practice. When practicing this breath there is a soft sound in the back of the throat. This is due to a slight contraction in the throat causing a hissing sound. As with most pranayama the breath is taken through the nostrils and not through the mouth.

       Find a comfortable seated position with the spine upright. Relax your shoulders and close your eyes. During the practice try and keep the awareness on the throat, chest and abdomen.

      Inhale slowly and deeply through both nostrils. Partially close the glottis (as if swallowing) to produce a hissing sound. The sound should be soft and the breath relaxed.

      Slightly contract the abdomen so that on the inhalation the chest fills with air.

       Slowly exhale keeping the throat constricted to produce the soft hissing sound. This is one round.

      Continue this practice whilst the breathing feels relaxed and comfortable.

      After practicing remain with the eyes closed and allow the breath to return to normal. Be aware of how the body and mind feel.

 

Controlled Breathing (Viloma Pranayama)

This is a revitalising breath that helps to develop conscious breathing and enables one to use the lungs to their full capacity. The lungs are filled in three stages to help this practice.

       Inhalation

      Sit comfortably and focus on the breath. Try and inhale to a third of your lung capacity filling the bottom third of the lungs. Feel the rise in the abdominal region. Pause for a few seconds.

      Next inhale into the middle part of the lungs and feel the expansion in the chest. Pause for a few seconds.

      Now inhale into the top third of the lungs. Feel the sternum lift as you fill the entire lungs. When practicing try not to strain the breath. Pause for a few seconds.

      Now release the breath in one long exhalation.

      Allow the breath to return to normal and repeat the practice two more times.

       Exhalation

      Inhale in one steady flow until the lungs are full. Pause for a few seconds.

      Now exhale out of the bottom third of the lungs. Try not to tighten the abdominal muscles. Pause for a few seconds.

      Next exhale from the middle section of the lungs. Try and maintain the rise in the sternum. Pause for a few seconds without inhaling.

      Now exhale completely letting the air flow gently out of the lungs. Pause for a few seconds and be aware of the stillness.

      When you need to inhale allow it come naturally in one smooth long breath. Rest the lungs with relaxed breathing then repeat the practice two more times.

      Maintain awareness of the body, mind and breath after the practice. Focus on the stillness.

 

Bellows Breath (Bhastrika)

This pranayama practice draws air in and out of the lungs with force. It helps to rid the body of toxins and works around the abdominal region. As this is a strong practice beginners should begin slowly. Practice a few rounds to begin with and build it up slowly as you become more experienced. If you experience any dizziness allow the breath to return to normal. Do not practice this pranayama if you are pregnant or suffer with pressure in your eyes or ears.

       Begin by blowing your nose so that your nasal passages are clear. Then find a comfortable sitting position with the spine straight. Press the sitting bones down so that your spine elongates and the neck lengthens.

      Inhale slowly through the nostrils then exhale sharply through the nostrils 5 to 10 times tightening the abdominal muscles at the same time. This is one round.

      The breath can be heard passing though the nostrils. Complete ten to twenty rounds of inhalation and exhalation, expanding and contracting the abdominal muscles in time with the breath.

      When you have finished take a comfortable inhalation. Perform chin lock (jalandhara bandha) and root lock (mula bandha). This helps to maintain the prana within the body. Hold the breath for thirty seconds. Release the bandhas and exhale.

      Allow the breath to flow naturally. Repeat two more cycles of ten to twenty breaths then rest in savasana.

 


'Therapy for Mind, Body & Soul'
Site Map