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Breathing Better with Pranayama

    No matter how healthy you are, Pranayama can sync your mind, body and soul. In this blog, we share Pranayama techniques to regularise your breath so you can live better. Breathing is literally the first and last thing we do in our lives. It’s a constant and without breathing, there is no life! Daily tensions, stress and our chaotic lifestyles create physical and energy obstacles in our bodies that unknowingly affect our breathing pattern. This gradually makes breathing shallow or stilted. Pranayama helps you solve this issue.
     
    In Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ means breath or the vital life force and Ayama’ means to regulate, lengthen and control. As a result, ‘Pranayama’ means control of life force or control of breath.Pranayama regulates the energy flow throughout the body. It energizes, relaxes and heals the body, while increasing and balancing the life energy in our system.
     

    Why Pranayama?

    Pranayama offers many physical and mental benefits. Some of its most significant health benefits are listed below.
     
    • It improves your breathing pattern
    • Strengthens your lungs
    • Calms the nervous system
    • Improves sleep quality
    • Keeps blood pressure in control
    • Improves digestion
    • Brings clarity to the mind
    • Makes you energetic, enthusiastic, calmer, and positive
    • Brings harmony between the body, mind, and spirit
    • Clears blocked ‘nadis’ and ‘chakras’, cleanses your aura
    • Makes one physically, mentally and spiritually strong
     

    How to do Pranayama or Breathing Exercise?

    Pranayama is done in different ways. The most popular ones are listed below.
     

    1. Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)

    ‘Bhramari Pranayama’ derives its name from the black Indian bee called ‘Bhramari.’ It is one of the best breathing exercises to calm and soothe the nerves and respiratory system. In this technique, the humming sound vibrations have a natural calming effect on the mind and body.
     

    How to do it:

    1. Sit comfortably with your legs folded and eyes closed
    2. Inhale through the nostrils. Exhale by making the sound of the bee, essentially a humming sound.
    3. Sustain the sound until your next inhalation
    4. Repeat
    5. You can practice this cycle as long as you want.
     

    2. Kapal Bhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breathing Technique)

    In Sanskrit, ‘Kapal means the ‘skull’ and ‘Bhati’ means ‘to shine or illuminate’. This practice is said to ‘make the skull shine.’ It cleanses the nasal passageways and sinuses; and supplies fresh oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
     

    How to do it:

    1. Sit in a comfortable position, with your legs crossed
    2. Keep your back straight and relax
    3. Now breathe in. Inhalation should be passive and normal.
    4. Next, exhale with a force. Just throw out your breath.
    5. Keep your awareness on breathing out
    6. Relax during inhalation to fill the lungs with fresh air again
    7. Repeat the cycle 4-5 times as per your need.
     

    3. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)

    The name of this pranayama is taken from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhastra,’ which means ‘Bellows.’ This breathing technique not only clears your mind, but also gives you a natural and immediate boost of energy.
     

    How to do it:

    1. Cross your legs, close your eyes and sit in a comfortable position
    2. Relax
    3. Begin bhastrika breathing by inhaling and exhaling fast
    4. Use the diaphragm to pump the movement
    5. One inhale and exhale equals one round of breath. So, start with ten rounds of breath and do more or less depending on how comfortable you are.
    6. After ten rounds of breath, inhale deep in a relaxing manner followed by a slow long exhalation
    7. Breathe normally for 10 seconds and then begin the next round
    8. You can do 3 rounds initially.
     

    4. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique)

    In Sanskrit ‘Nadi’  means  ‘subtle energy channels’ and Shodhana’ means ‘purification’.
    The subtle energy channels in our human body get blocked due to various reasons. The Nadi Shodhan Pranayama clears these blocked energy channels, by keeping the mind calm.
     

    How to do it:

    1. Sit in a comfortable asana. Preferably, crossed legs with eyes closed.
    2. Gently close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Open the right nostril and release your breath.
    3. Next, keeping the right nostril open, inhale, close it. Open the left nostril and exhale slowly.
    4. This is one cycle
    5. Repeat this cycle 3 to 5 times
    6. Finally, release your hands and keep them on your knees. Now, go back to normal breathing. 
     

    5. Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath)

    In Sanskrit ‘Ujjayi’ means ‘one who is victorious’. Hence, Ujjayi Pranayama is translated as ‘victorious breath’. This practice is both energizing and relaxing as it sends fresh oxygen throughout the body. It balances the entire cardiorespiratory system and helps detoxify the mind and body.
     

    How to do it:

    1. Sit in a comfortable asana.  Preferably, crossed legs with eyes closed.
    2. Seal the lips and start breathing in and out slowly through the nose
    3. Exhaling should make the sound ‘Haaaaah’ with the mouth closed
    4. While performing Ujjayi breathing, slightly constrict the back of the throat to feel and hear the air pass through the back of the throat and nasal cavity. The breath usually sounds like an ocean wave which is sometimes referred to as ‘Darth Vader’ sound.
    5. While performing Ujjayi breath, equalize the inhales and exhales. There is no rush. The aim is to breathe as deeply as you can with ultimate control.
     
    Note:
    • Never attempt pranayama by yourself – if you are doing it for the first time. Seek help from a qualified and knowledgeable yoga teacher.
    • If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, inform your doctor or your yoga instructor before practicing pranayama.
    • Practice as per your capability and limit.
     
    Pranayama is one of the most ancient yogic disciplines practiced in India. It can bring balance and purity into your life on many levels. Try it on an empty stomach to gain maximum health benefits. For additional bonus points, try practicing outdoors amidst greenery so that your lungs can inhale precious fresh air!