Pranayama – The Science of Breathing

“Pranayama is control of Breath”. “Prana” is Breath or vital energy in the body. On subtle levels, prana represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and “ayama” means control. So Pranayama is “Control of Breath”.

One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve a healthy body and mind. Patanjali in his text of Yoga Sutras mentioned pranayama as a means of attaining higher states of awareness, he mentions the holding of breath as an important practice of reaching Samadhi. Hatha Yoga also talks about 8 types of pranayama which will make the body and mind healthy.

Five types of prana are responsible for various pranic activities in the body, they are Prana, Apana, Vyan, Udana & Samana. Out of these Prana and Apana are most important. Prana is upward flowing and Apana is downward flowing. The practice of Pranayama achieves the balance in the activities of these pranas, which results in a healthy body and mind.

TYPES OF PRANAYAMA

Ujjayi Pranayama
It involves making of sound from throat. Some experts opine that it lowers blood pressure. Some say, that it is useful in treating diseases of ear, nose ad throat. From an Ayurvedic point of view, it stimulates Udana type of Vata, which controls functions like speech, memory, immunity and enthusiasm.

Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
It is a derivative of Nadi Shodhana, excluding the breath holding phase. It balances Tridosha.

Kapal Bhati
Here, the air from lungs is forcefully exhaled. But inhalation is made involuntarily. Many use this Pranayama in the initial phase of meditation. It helps to improve alertness and concentration. Kapha is related to obesity, and this Pranayama strengthens abdominal muscles and helps to burn calories. Hence, it is beneficial for Kapha balance.

Agnisara Pranayama
The air is exhaled out and at that point, abdominal muscles are fanned. This improves digestion power. Hence, it increases Pitta at the level of stomach and intestines. It also activates Vata in large intestines, due to increased abdominal pressure, during this Pranayama.

Bhramari Pranayama
It is more targeted towards mind and spirituality than the body. It balances all the three Doshas. I have heard from a Spiritual Yogi that this makes you “think before you talk” – Based on this explanation, it can be said that it helps to control Vata in mind and in speech. It also increases Kapha to a minor extent.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Balances all the three Doshas- Mind, Body and Soul.

Sheetkari and Sheetali Pranayama
It is a coolant breathing exercises. Mitigates Pitta and increases Kapha and Vata Doshas.

Surya Bhedana Pranayama
It generates heat. It increases Pitta Dosha and decreases Kapha Dosha.

Bhastrika Pranayama
It is meant to increase blood circulation and to activate body channels. It increases Vata to a great extent, and Pitta to a lesser extent.

Chandranga Bhastrika
Practised through left nostril, influences Ida nadi. It is relatively coolant in nature. Hence it will not increase Pitta, but increases Vata and slightly Kapha.

Sooryanga Bhastrika
Done through right nostril, influences Pingala nadi and increases Pitta more than Vata.

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