What is Pranayama? Pranayama is a Sanskrit word and it is a combination of two words, one is “Prana” means breath or vital energy in the body and the second word is “Ayama” which means control. Pranayama means control of breath. In this article, we will be focusing on how many pranayama are there in yoga?
Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques and practice where the breath is purposely regulated. This practice has been traced back to ancient India and has been done for thousands of years.
An individual can control his or her pranic energy by using pranayama to help achieve a healthy mind, body, and soul. According to Patanjali in Yoga Sutras, he mentioned that pranayama is helpful in attaining one’s higher state of awareness. By holding one’s breath, this is a helpful practice of reaching Samadhi or state of enlightenment. Hatha yoga has 8 types of Pranayama. The practice of pranayama helps an individual achieves the balance of the different pranas, therefore, resulting in a healthy mind and body.
What are the Types of Pranayama?
1. Breath Retention or Kumbhaka
It is the central practice of Hatha pranayama. There are two retention types. The first one is after an inhale or also known as antara (inside or interior) and the second one is after an exhale or bahya (outer or exterior). Kumbha means pot. The human torso serves as a container for the breath and it has two openings, at the throat and the base of the pelvis.
2. Conqueror Breath or Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi means to become victorious. It is the conquering breath or victorious breath. This pranayama creates a sound in the throat. It helps lower the blood pressure and it helps stimulate Udana which is responsible for the functions of speech, memory, immune system, and an individual’s enthusiasm.
3. Channel Cleaning Breath or Nadhi Shodhana
Nadi means channel and Shodhana means cleaning or purifying. It helps balance the three doshas – mind, body, and soul. This pranayama is sometimes used as a preparation for other pranayamas.
4. Single Nose Breath or Surya Bhedana (Sun Piercing) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon Piercing)
Individuals who have high blood pressure or heart problems must avoid performing Surya Bhedana. It is also not advisable to do both breaths on the same day.
5. Skull Shining Breath or Kapalabhati
This pranayama is an internal cleaning technique and it is usually used for a warm-up for pranayama.
The air from the lungs is exhaled forcefully while the inhalation is done involuntarily. A lot of individuals who practice meditation use this pranayama as a beginning step of the meditation process. This pranayama makes an individual increase his or her concentration and alertness. It helps strengthen abdominal muscles and burn calories and helps balance the Kapha.
This pranayama is a calming breathing technique. It helps soothe the nervous system and it also allows an individual to connect with his or her inner self.
7. Cooling Breath or Sheetkari and Sheetali Pranayama
Both are coolant breathing exercises. These pranayama promotes mental relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and deals with excess body heat especially during hot summer days. Sheetkari is for those individuals who cannot roll their tongues.
This pranayama is sometimes treated as a kriya or a cleaning action. It helps prepare the other pranayama techniques and also cleans the airways.
9. Yoga of Sound Breath or Svara Yoga Pranayama
Increases an individual’s breath control and awareness.
10. Interrupted breathing or Viloma Breathing
Helps prepare for deep breathing.
11. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing can help increase the oxygen supply in the body.
12. Natural Breathing
This pranayama is also known as breath awareness. It is the starting point of an individual working with his breath.
13. Abdominal Breathing
This should be practiced before doing any pranayama. Always remember to breathe using the diaphragm.
14. Thoracic Breathing
This type of breathing is helpful in creating awareness of how an individual must breathe. It is a stepping stone before learning the yogic breathing.
What are the Benefits of Practicing Pranayama?
- It helps improve an individual’s circulatory system.
- Prevents heart problems.
- Helps relax the mind and the body, perfect for individuals who are experiencing too much stress and anxiety.
- It helps deal with stress, depression, anxiety.
- It helps lower blood pressure; it is advisable for individuals who have hypertension.
- Breathing control is improved; individuals who are suffering from asthma can find relief from this.
- It helps improve the function of the body’s different organs and systems.
- It helps increase an individual’s self-confidence and improves his or her self-awareness.
What are the Tips When Performing Pranayama?
- Pranayama must be done on an empty stomach, make sure to do it before you eat meals. An individual must have 5 hours gap from each meal before practicing pranayama. Pranayama can be done in the morning after waking up or in the evening. Drink 2 glasses of warm water and go for a brisk walk, these can aid your digestion process.
- When you practice pranayama it helps develop positive thinking. It also boosts a person’s energy and confidence level. Positive thinking can help develop positive energy and cure a person’s disease.
- The yoga room or studio must be clean and have open windows for fresh air.
- Women who have menstrual periods must not practice pranayama. The mind must be relaxed, without any worry or tension.
- Pranayama must be practiced regularly in order to reap and experience its benefits.
- Pranayama must be done daily and in the morning with duration of 40-45 minutes.
Regularly practicing Pranayama can help a person’s overall health and these breathing exercises can be used to prevent heart problems and cure other diseases as well. Always consult an expert so you will know all the necessary and important information when practicing Pranayama. Before subjecting yourself to any type of activities, make sure to consult your healthcare provider.