Discover 8 Types Of Pranayama Breathing Techniques For Wellness

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The ancient Indian breathing technique, Pranayama, is a key part of meditation and yoga practice. The word “prana” in Sanskrit means breath or the vital energy in your body. Essentially, it represents the energy in your body responsible for life. The suffix “ayama” means control. Simply, Pranayama means breath control, which is a major part of the art of yoga. 

Discover 8 Types Of Pranayama Breathing Techniques For Wellness

Many types of pranayama are available to help you achieve wellness in your body and calm your mind. Furthermore, ancient Indian teachings mention how pranayama can aid you in reaching higher states of self-awareness. This awareness inevitably leads you to make the best choices to keep your body in a healthy balance. 

Five types of breathing are responsible for the energy forces in the body which come from this practice. The types are Prana, Apana, Samana, Udan, and Vyan. Prana is the upward flowing, and Apana is the downward flowing, making these two the most important. We will take you through eight prominent types of pranayama practices that you can incorporate into your daily life and how you benefit from them.

List of Pranayama

In any breathing technique, there are always three significant stages. In Pranayama, Purak is inhaling through your nostrils, Kumbhak is retention, and Rechak is exhalation. 

1. Dirga Pranayama — “Three-Part Breath”

Dirga is one of the most basic types of Pranayama because it helps beginners correct irregular breathing habits. It also helps calm and ground you, making it a fantastic technique to use before you start any uncomfortable task. 

The goal is to intentionally breathe into three parts of your abdomen. You begin in your low belly, which can be either just above or below your belly button. The second part is your lower chest, which is the lower half of your rib cage. The final part is your lower throat, which is just above the top of your sternum.

Start this technique by lying down on your back or sitting in a very comfortable position. Prepare by taking normal breaths to relax your body further. Once you’re relaxed, inhale in a slow deep breath, feeling it fill your abdomen. Continue as your chest expands until you feel it in your neck or throat. To exhale, you start by releasing the breath from your low throat, working your way down until you release the breath from your abdomen. You can first practice by placing your hands on each position to get a good feel of the breath movement.

This breathing technique is continuous, and you can repeat it for 10 to 20 breaths. The main benefit of the Dirga Pranayama is to nourish and relax you, readying your mind for meditation.

2. Sitkari Pranayama — “Cooling Breath”

As the name suggests, this breathing technique helps to cool the body down and is amazing for the summertime. 

Start this technique by sitting in a comfortable position, making sure your spine is neutral. Sitting with your legs crossed is a good position for those who can. Start by breathing normally. Bring your upper and lower teeth together gently while keeping your lips open. Start to inhale slowly through the gaps of your teeth. You will begin to feel the air’s cooling effect as it expands your chest and abdomen. Finally, exhale through your nostrils with your mouth closed. 

You can repeat the cycle up to 20 times. Benefits suggest that it helps to regulate your body temperature and has a soothing effect on anxious thoughts. If you need help with concentration or anger management, this may work for you. 

3. Ujjayi Pranayama — “Ocean Breath”

The ‘Ocean Breath’ is also a great cooling breathing technique. It also produces a sound that is similar to calming ocean waves. You will find that this exercise is commonly used in vinyasa yoga. 

Start in a comfortable sitting position. Your mouth will be closed for this exercise. Inhale through your nose and avoid opening up your throat. Try to constrict your throat until your breathing sounds like soft snoring. Exhale through your nose and focus control of your breath just through your diaphragm. Make sure to keep your inhalations and exhalations very similar in duration. 

When doing the ‘Ocean Breath’ technique for the first time, it can feel like you’re not breathing in enough air. However, with practice, it becomes much easier. Additionally, this technique is beneficial for improving concentration, releasing tension in your body, and regulating body temperature. 

4. Nadi Sodhana — “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

The name of this technique translates into “channel purification.” It aims to clear the small channels of the mind and body, ultimately bringing balance to the whole system. You can feel more of the benefits of this breathing technique when you practice it on an empty stomach. Thus, doing it as soon as you wake up is best.

Start in a comfortable sitting position. It can either be on the floor, with something to support the spine, or in a chair, making sure your feet are flat on the ground. Keep your back, neck, and head erect throughout the technique. Block your right nostril using your right thumb. Breathe in and out through your left nostril. Then, release your right nostril and block your left nostril. Inhale and exhale using your right nostril. 

You can repeat this exercise 10 times, alternating between each nostril. The benefits of this technique include; releasing toxins, reducing anxiety, helping to balance hormones, encouraging clear respiratory channels, and helping to alert the mind. 

5. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama — “Against The Waves”

This technique is one of the better-known Pranayama techniques. It involves alternate nostril breathing with a holding of breath. This technique aims to restore the balance between the brain’s two hemispheres and purify the entire nervous system. You can do it in the morning or evening, but you will see the best results when you do this four to five hours after eating.

Start in a comfortable sitting position, keeping your back and neck supported. Breathe normally and then breathe out deeply through your nose. Block your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril for two counts. Then, hold your breath for four counts, blocking both nostrils. Let go of the right nostril only. Exhale through your right nostril for two counts, then inhale for two counts. Hold your breath for four counts, with both nostrils closed. Let go of the left nostril while keeping the right one blocked. Breathe out through your left nostril for two counts. Finally, hold your breath for two seconds. This is one complete cycle. You can complete up to ten cycles.

It is important to note that you shouldn’t hold your breath while doing this exercise if you have cardiac issues, abnormal blood pressure, or are pregnant. Simply keep inhaling and exhaling. This technique may have benefits in releasing negative thoughts, improving lung capacity, relieving mild eye and ear issues, and reducing stress.

6. Kapalabhati Pranayama — “Skull Shining Breath”

This breathing technique is an energizing one that aims to clear the mind, nasal passages, and lungs. The translation of the name claims that this breathing technique is supposed to bring lightness and clarity to the frontal region of your brain, which is the part responsible for your logical reasoning. It involves contracting and releasing your abdomen, with an active focus on the exhalation. 

This technique is best completed on an empty stomach. Sit in a comfortable position. Cross your legs if you are on the floor if you can, making sure to use a cushion to elevate your hips. If you prefer a chair, sit with your feet touching the ground. Close your eyes and prepare by breathing just through your nose. Breathe in until you feel your abdomen expanding. Breathe out while contracting your abdomen, pulling your stomach towards your back. As you inhale and relax your abdominal muscles, allow yourself to inhale passively without effort. Start another forceful exhale, contracting the abdomen, and then inhale passively through the nose. 

As you practice this breathing technique, your abdominal muscles will grow stronger. Kapalabhati is common in weight loss yoga because it works on your abdominal muscles and helps detoxify the body. Benefits may include energizing the nervous system, sharpening your senses, keeping the forehead cool, toning the digestive organs, and supporting immunity.

It is important to note that this technique is not recommended for everyone. Pregnant women, those with blood pressure issues, heart disease, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, significant nosebleeds, history of stroke, migraines, or have gone through recent abdominal surgery should avoid it.

7. Bhramari Pranayama — “Humming Bee Breath”

In this breathing technique, the exhale sound resembles a bee’s buzzing sound. It is a calming breathing exercise intended to bring us closer to our true inner nature. Bhramari works at any time; however, the best time is either early morning or late at night, when you are in a quiet space. 

Start in a comfortable sitting position. Cross your legs if you can, and ensure a cushion elevates your hips. If you’re on a chair, put your feet on the ground. Lengthen your spine so that your back, neck, and head are fully erect. Close your lips gently while you are keeping your teeth slightly apart. The tip of your tongue should rest behind the top of your front teeth. Make sure your jaw is relaxed, and stay like this throughout the exercise. Close each ear using your thumbs and put your index fingers in the middle of your forehead above the eyebrows. Your middle, ring, and pinky fingers should fall across the eyes so that the tips are resting gently against the bridge of your nose. 

Inhale deeply through your nostrils to begin, filling down to your belly. Lower your chin down to your chest and exhale slowly through the nose. While exhaling, make a low-pitched ‘hmmm’ sound at the back of your throat. You will sound like a humming bee. Make sure your sound is soft and steady, which should be possible because of the position of your tongue. When you inhale again, straighten your neck and repeat the exercise. 

This breathing technique has benefits in calming the mind, soothing the nerves, strengthening your throat, inducing good sleep, improving the voice, and calming down anger. People who should avoid this technique are those with high blood pressure, chest pain, epilepsy, or an active ear infection. 

8. Simhasana Pranayama — “Lion’s Breath”

This breathing technique is interesting because it promotes a healthy and glowing face. It focuses on stretching the whole face, including the tongue and jaw, mimicking a lion’s roar. Simhasana aims to alleviate stress and stimulate your upper chest and throat. Therefore, this exercise is very beneficial if you want to release some pent-up emotions. Your face may look silly, but you’ll feel so rejuvenated afterward.

Start by sitting in a comfortable position, either on the floor or on a chair, with your feet touching the ground. You can also get low on all fours for a further release. Lean forward and place your hands on your knees or the floor. Open your fingers. Breathe in through your nose. Open your mouth as wide as you can, stick your tongue out, and take a forceful breath out. You should be making a “ha” sound. Inhale and relax your face. You can continue the cycle up to 20 times. 

Simhasana is beneficial for working your facial muscles and releasing tension. It may also be helpful in managing thyroid issues, stimulating your vocal cords, and releasing toxins.

The Takeaway

Pranayama partners with yoga well because as you put your body through physical stress, you are simultaneously learning how to control your breath. It’s a great way to teach you how to cope with stress healthily. However, you don’t need to do yoga to use pranayama; you can simply use it for meditation.

You can definitely find benefits in practicing a pranayama technique daily, and it doesn’t take much time or effort. After a few months, the results will keep you practicing.