What is Pranayama? Pranayama is an essential practice in yogic traditions, as it is a technique where one can control and extend their life force from the Sanskrit words “Prana” and “Ayama,” which means “life force” or “universal energy” and “to expand” respectively. A practice to extend life or one’s life force through breathing. With the flow of the universal energy throughout the body, the practice of Pranayama helps to unblock the body’s Nadi or pulse channels through techniques in breathing like Puraka (inhalation), Antara-khumbaka (internal retention), Rechaka (exhalation), and Bahya-khumbaka (external retention).
Pranayama involves three types of breathing: Abdominal breathing, Thoracic breathing, and Clavicular breathing. Abdominal breathing focuses on the muscles in the abdomen during inhaling and exhaling. The movement of the body happens in the stomach while breathing through the nose. Thoracic breathing occurs in the thoracic cage. This also involves the abdominals; however, the mid-chest part of the body expands in the thorax. Clavicular breathing is breathing through the clavicles of the lungs, which expands the upper part of the body.
The Floating Breath: Plavini Pranayama
In Sanskrit, the word Plavini came from the root word “plu” which means “to float”. Pranayama can be practiced in any comfortable position – seated, reclined, or even while standing. It is classical Pranayama that is a very rare and advanced level. It involves abdominal breathing as this practice involves swallowing air to expand the belly and then inhaling more air through the nose.
This practice is believed to reduce the effect of gravity on the body. A yogi who mastered and learned the Plavini pranayama is said to have the skill to float in water for several hours and in surviving even without food for a couple of days. The goal of this Pranayama is not to float on water, though, as compared to what it is called. The goal of the Plavini pranayama is to defy the effects of gravitational pull and get the ability to levitate.
Before doing this Pranayama, one should be reminded that this Pranayama is an advanced level of Pranayama and requires extreme practice and should always be performed with the guidance of a guru or teacher. It must also be performed at least 5 hours after a meal or with an empty stomach, either in the evening or early morning.
How to Do the Plavini Pranayama
- Start in a comfortable position. For beginners, it can be practiced while in Savashana or Asana. Once a practitioner learns better, then they can do this Pranayama in a different position.
- Relax the whole body. With eyes closed, concentrate on the area between the eyebrows.
- Inhale moderately through the nose to the stomach. This should make the stomach bulge. The bulged stomach should make a resonant sound if tapped.
- Relax the body at the top of the breath or during kumbhaka and let the air move through the abdominal cavity.
- Exhale the air while maintaining relaxed muscles. Wait for a moment until a spark-like feeling in the belly is felt. This is a signal from the navel chakra to inhale.
- Hold air still for a moment and exhale with force to dispose of all the air.
The Benefits of Plavini Pranayama
- This Pranayama is good for blood circulation. The practice of Pranayama allows blood to flow throughout the body at a fast speed. Because of this, toxins and impurities that have been stagnant in the body for a long time are expelled. This will also help improve one’s immune system.
- It helps reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing the mind and body. Techniques used in Pranayama turn off the stress response of the body. The control of airflow in the body during a relaxed state also lowers the heart rate and effectively reduces mental tension, thus also helping improve one’s mental health.
- The Plavini pranayama is a good remedy for many problems with the organs located in the abdominal cavity, such as the intestines, liver, stomach, pancreas, and kidneys. Digestion is improved by practicing this Pranayama by expelling abdominal parasites and impure air that is kept in the abdomen.
- This Pranayama is suitable for individuals following a strict diet. It reduces hunger, a yogi who practices Plavini pranayama can survive without food for several days.
- With mastery and practice of this Pranayama, it helps achieve the power to float on water. Many believers describe it as a lotus leaf floating on the surface of the water.
Recommended Asana for Plavini Pranayama
1. The Lotus Pose or Padmasana
This is the most ideal out of all the asana. It allows the practitioner to sit for longer while continuously allowing blood circulation in the pelvis area. It also helps in stretching the lower part of the body and in strengthening the spine. To do this pose, start by sitting on the floor with outstretched legs. Place each foot on opposite thighs by interweaving the legs. Place palms in Jnana Mudra.
2. The Accomplished Pose or Siddhasana
This is the second most ideal pose for meditation. It is an excellent pose to be maintained on extended hours. It helps regulate energy flow to move upwards in the body and helps relax the nervous system. To do this, start by sitting on the floor with legs close together. Place left foot at the body’s perineum and place right foot over it. Keep the knees touching the floor and sit with an upright spine. Hands may do a Jnana Mudra or Chin Mudra.
3. The Thunderbolt Pose or Vajrasana
This meditation asana is different from the common asanas for meditation as instead of sitting in a cross-legged position, the yogi will be in a kneeling pose. This pose helps stretch the knees, hips, thighs, and ankle and strengthen the legs, back, and pelvic muscles. To do this pose, kneel with the legs close together and the big toes crossed. Lower body to a sitting position so that the buttocks are pressed against the heels and the thighs to the calf. Jnana Mudra can be done with the hands.