“Prana” means breathe or life force, “Yama” means control or restraint or expansion. Thus pranayama means restraining or lengthening the breath or control over life force. The process by which the subtle and psychic prana is controlled through regulation of internal and external breath is called pranayama. In body there are five major pranas called “pancha prana” which are parts of Universal or Mahaprana.
Ø Udana [upward moving] – residing is the head, activates intellect, brain etc.
Ø Prana [forward moving] – residing in the chest sustains speech, strength complexes etc.
Ø Samana [Equalizing] – residing in the naval region, helps in metabolism.
Ø Vyana [pervasive] – residing in the heart, but roams all over the body sustains circulation sweating, relaxation and contraction in’ general besides nourishing the body
Ø Apana [downward moving] – residing in the pelvic region is responsible for excretion procreation etc.
Breath is very important for our lives, but most of us take it for granted. It supplies our body cells with oxygen, which is used in the process of metabolism that powers all our cells. Oxygen also cleans all our organs, including the brain, of the toxic by product of metabolism, namely carbon dioxide.
We must learn to breathe properly which facilitates the opening of alveoli evenly where the exchange of gases takes place. The surface of alveoli is about 50 square meters which is 20 times the entire body surface, the larger the space utilized to better the process of diffusion of gases and more opening/functioning of alveoli, otherwise some alveoli remain unopened and get struck results in a collection of secretion which in turn lead to disease formation
The foundation of health is healthy blood stream, the system that transports oxygen and nutrients to all the cells of your body is circulatory system, through blood, breathing is the way you fully oxygenate the body and thus stimulate the electric process of each and every cell. Breathing not only controls the oxygenation of cells. It also controls the flow of lymph fluids, which contains the white blood cells to protect the body The body’s cells depends on the lymph system as the only way to drain off the large toxic materials and excess fluids, as it doesn’t have its own pump as circulatory system which has its own pump i.e. heart. So, the only way through which lymph moves is through deep breathing and muscular movement.
If you want to have healthy blood stream with effective lymph and immune system; you need to breath deep and produce the movements that will help them. Thus proper breathing is very essential for each one of us. What is proper breathing then? Take a deep breath i.e, filling the lower lobes of lungs by pulling the diaphragm out while inhaling, expanding the chest to fill middle lobes of lungs and clavicular section to fill the upper part of the lungs.
Normally we breath 0.47liters of air
Which can be supplemented by 1.42 liters of air
Which can be complemented by 1,42 liters of air
Total 7 pints 3.29 liters of air.
So, our lungs can hold roughly 4 liters of air, but we breath only very little out of our full capacity, if we learn to breath properly, which increase the air intake up to 7 times, thus super charging the body and mind with oxygen and prana, which in turn makes our body light and lustrous and increases our vitality. Yogis say that one’s life is not measured by the number of years but by the number of times one breathes. In state of excitement, stress etc. we exhaust the stock of prana by rapid breathing. That is why it is very important to conserve prana.
An average man’s rate is about 15-18 breaths per minute, but in excitement and anger it becomes more, causing more prana to deplete. Hence we must learn to regulate breath, we can do this if we inhale fully by counting 15, holding the breath to a count of 15, exhaling by counting 15 and hold air out for 15 counts. Thus in one minute we breathe only once. This will reduce breath rate from 15 to 1 per minute, this in turn helps to relieve lot of stress and strain on the organs giving them some rest. Hence there is a great need to regulate and restrain breath.
Breathing slowly, correctly and fully, increases vigour and vitality and this in turn gives peace and tranquility. Breath consists of: (I) Inhalation – Puraka, (ii) Exhalation – Rechaka (iii) Retention – Kumbhaka.
(i) Kumbhaka.: Kumbhaka is of two types viz. Sahita and Kevala. That which is coupled with inhalation and exhalations is termed sahita. That which is devoid of these is called kevala.
Until one is perfect in kevala, practice sahita. By practice of kevala kumbhaka, the knowledge of kundalini arises, the breath is suddenly stopped without puraka inhalation) and rechaka (exhalation). Most best is kevala kumbhaka.
Through practice of pranayama the body becomes supple and healthy. Too much fat is reduced, and the face becomes more lustrous. The eye sparkles and the practitioner of this art becomes handsome.
There are many types of pranayama:-
(ii) Surya Bhedan: Sit in any meditative posture, inhale slowly through right nostril (exhale slowly through left nostril repeat 10 times or more). (If you do it in the reverse manner it is called Chandra bhedan. With this, stomach disorders are removed. Persons suffering from heart problems, hypertension, and epilepsy should avoid the practice.
(iii) Bhastrika : Bhastrika means bellows used by the blacksmith. Bhastrika Pranayama (important type of pranayama) resembles the bellows of a blacksmith. Hence keep the arms in a comfortable posture, exhale foible through both the nostril and the mouth 15 times producing the hissing sound. At the end, breathe in and retain the breath for a while and slowly exhale. This completes one round of bhastrika.
(iv) Sitali: This pranayama has a cooling effect and ‘hence the name “Sitali”, Sit in any meditative posture, fold the tongue to form a funnel, and protrude away from lips. Inhale through the mouth with the hissing sound. Retain the breath for a few seconds. Exhale through both the nostrils. This process should be repeated ten to twenty times. Due to moisture of the tongue, this type of pranayama gives cooling effect and hence is useful in summer.
Benefits: Controls thirst and hunger. It gives soothing effect to the body. Helps in removing poisons of blood, destroy chronic dyspepsia, inflammation of spleen, helpful in chronic skin disorders, fevers.
(v) Sitkari; Sit in any meditative posture, fold the tongue upwards to touch the upper palate and teeth. Inhale through the mouth producing a hissing sound. Retain the breath for a few seconds, Exhale through both the nostrils. Because of the sound producing during inhalations this called sitkari pranayama.
Benefits: Laziness is driven away by sitkari, the shape of body is maintained, and hunger and thirst are controlled.
Limitation: Persons with high Blood Pressure, Heart ailment, Hernia, gastric Ulcer or Vertigo should avoid this practice.
(vi) Bhramari : The sound of a bumblebee is reduced in this type of pranayama; hence the name Bhramari pranayama. Sit in any meditative posture, inhale through both the nostrils and exhale making a buzzing sound resembling that of a bee by producing a sound in throat keeping both the ears closed as in fig., you can practice 5-10 times and increase gradually.
Benefits: Bhramari develops concentration power, circulation of blood increases to brain, calms mind and cools the body. It aids help in meditation. The practitioner gets unlimited and indescribable Joy.
(vii) Ujjayi: Sit in any meditative posture, inhale through both the nostrils in a smooth uniform manner till breath is full, retain the breath as long as you are comfortable. Then exhale through the left nostril by closing right nostril or exhale through both nostrils in a smooth uniform manner producing a peculiar sound owing to the partial closure of glottis- the sound produced should be of a mild and uniform pitch.
Benefits : This removes the heat in the head. The practitioner becomes very beautiful. The gastric fire is increased. Asthma, consumption and all sorts of pulmonary diseases are cured.
(viii) Moorcha : Moorcha means fainting down. Sit in any meditative posture, inhale and retain the breath in Jalandhara Bandha (neck lock) till you reach at the edge of fainting (this is forceful retention of breath inside lungs, and accumulation of carbon-di-oxide for a longer period makes you faint) This condition is known as moorcha.
Caution: Beginners should not practice this pranayama, only after gain much experiences in other simple pranayamas you can try this difficult one.
Benefits: Bestows bliss, a rare experience.
(ix) Plavani : Floating (on water) is Plavani, this demands skill on the part of the students. He who practices the pranayama can live on air and dispense food for some days. The student actually drinks air like water slowly and sends it to the stomach. The stomach gets bloated a bit. If you tap the stomach when it is filled with air you will get a peculiar tympani air (sound).
Caution: Gradual practice under proper guidance is necessary for this.
Benefits: Useful in floating in water for longer periods.
- Methods of Pranayam
The different methods of Pranayama has been discussed earlier. Now the simple modified methods of the pranayama will be talked about which can be practiced safely by any one.
Method -1: Sit on any meditative posture or on the chair straight. Slowly inhale up to the capacity of the lungs, but release the air through the mouth in a steady flow and again inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth repeat for 5 to 10 times.
Benefits: This method rectifies all defects of the lungs and purges out all the impurities.
Method -2 : Take morning or evening walk in dust and smoke free routes- Inhale slowly, steadily and deeply in a rhythm with the steps while walking. Exhale slowly and steadily in rhythm while walking. Repeat this for few minutes when you go for a walk.
Benefits: It cures rapidly and radically colds, cough etc. and protects from the germs of TB, Typhoid etc.
Method -3 : Lie down flat on back, keep the heels together and the hands straight beside the body; with slow inhalation raise the hands overhead to place them on the ground; then with slow exhalation bring down the hands beside the body. Repeat this for 10 times.
Now leave out the hands and raise up the right leg straight with inhalation and place it down with slow exhalation-alternate this process with the left leg and repeat for 10 times and then rest.
Benefits: This method makes the heart and lungs normally strong, checks rheumatism of the hands and feet.