Pranayama is the fourth limb of Patanjali's eight-fold path of yoga, or ashtanga yoga. You must not attempt it till you have gained some mastery over the third limb of ashtanga yogasana. This is because asana helps develop stability in the body, elasticity in the lung fibers and in other parts of the respiratory system—all essential for proper practice of pranayama. Some notes of caution must also be kept in mind before attempting pranayama:
Faulty practice, instead of benefiting, is more likely to invite disease. Irritability, restlessness and heaviness indicate incorrect practice and, if these happen, stop and seek the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Just as there are several types of asanas, there are different types of pranayama. While Ujjayi and Viloma Pranayama are performed with open nostrils, in anuloma, Pratiloma and Nadi Shodhana Pranayama you use your fingers to regulate breath. Each of these pranayama has a different effect on your physiology and the state of your mind. A certain amount of maturity is, therefore, necessary to properly practice these pranayama.
In inhalation (puraka), the outer skin of the back moves down and towards the front while the inner frontal skin expands and opens up, without disturbing the outer frontal skin of the chest. In exhalation (rechaka), the skin of the inner back and the inner front of the trunk is lifted up and alerted to keep it steady. Then the breath is released in the form of rechaka through the outer skin of the front chest.
When passivity is felt evenly in the inner and outer skin of the front and back trunk, without shrinking or stooping of the spine and caving in of the chest, rechaka is complete.
Sit in such a way that the center of your tail bone's bottom is perpendicular to the floor. If we call the tail bone's center the south pole, then the center of the spine's head is the north pole. Without disturbing either of these points, adjust the rest of the spine in a line, as if placing one vertebra over the other. This subtle adjustment will help you understand the movement of the body's five elements while doing pranayama.
Any kind of forward or backward movement means a certain disturbance or imbalance in the elements in your body. Spread the bottom of your buttock bones as if they were mounds. Relax the groin. Position the center of the buttocks and the middle portion of the ankles so that they touch the ground accurately. In this manner, the water element of the body finds its level in the seat, groin and feet. Keep the front and back of your floating ribs parallel to each other.
When you practice pranayama with open nostrils, construct the dikes in the body with the help of prajna (conscious awareness) at the various entry gates for inhalation, which are at the bottom of the cheekbones, the upper palate and at the top of the windpipe.
In order to build natural dikes for pranayama, the yogis of yore introduced Jalandhara Bandha or the chin-lock. This helps the prajna to judiciously control the incoming prana, let it flow rhythmically and later on distribute it uniformly. Dikes for outgoing energy are built at the diaphragm, the chest's external intercostal muscles, the windpipe and the top rings of the cheek bones.
When the breath is deviated from the conditioned path, it enters and exits the body forcibly. These types of deep breaths, however, cannot be termed true pranayama. In pranayama, instead of letting the breath force its way in, the sadhak (seeker) must see that, while inhaling, the energy of the breath gets completely soaked into the body and, while exhaling, prana is released like water flowing through the sluice-gates of a reservoir so that the lungs get the time to absorb and store the energy in the system.
Only after understanding and learning the basics of breathing, sitting and the principles of Jalandhara Bandha should you attempt any specific type of pranayama
Fourth rung is Pranayama: The fourth of the eight rungs (2.29) of Yoga is Pranayama, which is regulating the breath so as to make it slow and subtle (2.50), leading to the experience of the steady flow of energy (prana), which is beyond or underneath exhalation, inhalation, and the transitions between them (2.51).
The fourth Pranayama: The three pranayamas are exhalation, inhalation, and the transition (2.50). However, the fourth pranayama is that continuous prana which surpasses, is beyond, or behind the others (2.51).
Thinning the veil of karma: The experience and repeated practice of this fourth pranayama thins the veil of karma, which usually clouds the inner light, allowing that to come shining through (2.52).
Posture is the prerequisite: To successfully practice and attain the full benefits of breath control and pranayama, it is necessary that it be built on the solid foundation of a steady and comfortable sitting posture (2.46-2.48).
Pranayama is preparation for concentration: Through these practices and processes of pranayama the mind acquires or develops the fitness, qualification, or capability for concentration (dharana), which is the sixth rung (3.1-3.3).
Preparation for meditation: In Yoga Meditation, breath training is essential preparation for deep meditation and samadhi, on the path to Self-Realization. Breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. Regulate breath, and the body and mind will follow.
Practices are known by different names: To avoid confusion, it is useful to note that the collective practice, of which breathing and pranayama practices are considered a part, may be known by different names when used by different modern teachers. This is particularly true with the practices dealing with the spinal energy and the vigorous practices. The breathing and pranayama practices may be known collectively, or considered to be part of pranayama alone, hatha Yoga, raja Yoga, kundalini Yoga, kriya Yoga, tantra, or simply Yoga. Other systems will use the practices as part of a modern trademarked or brand name Yoga practice, such as those containing either a Sanskrit word or a man's name
Prana: vital energy
Three aspects of Pranayama
Breathing: Breath through nose not through the mouth unless specifically instructed otherwise.
Time of practice: Early morning when the body is fresh and mind has very few impressions.
Place of practice: Quiet, clean and pleasant room which is well ventilated.
Sitting posture: A comfortable, sustainable, meditation posture.
Sequence: Perform after asanas and before meditation practice.
Clothes: Loose, comfortable clothing.
Bathing: Take a bath (or) shower.
Empty stomach: Wait at least 3-4 hours after meals.
Avoid strain: With all Pranayama practices, it is important to remember that the instruction is not to strain.
Hand position: Nasikagra Mudra
Hold the fingers of the right hand in front of the face, rest index and middle finger gently on the eyebrow center. Both fingers should be relaxed. The thumb is above the right nostril and the ring finger is above the left. These two digits control flow of breath in the nostrils by alternately pressing on one nostril, blocking the flow of breath and then the other.
Sthiti: Vajrasana (or) Padmasana
Adopt nasikamudra with right hand. Close the left nostril with little finger. Inhale and exhale slowly through the right nostril. Do it for nine rounds. One cycle of inhalation and exhalation forms one round.
Adopt nasikamudra. Close the right nostril with tip of the thumb, inhale and exhale slowly through the left nostril. Do it for nine rounds.
Benefits: Nasal allergies, sinusitis
Adopt nasikamudra. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through left nostril, then inhale deeply through the same left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring and little finger of the nasikamudra, release the right nostril, now, exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril. Inhale deeply through same right nostril., close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat for nine rounds.
Therapeutic benefits: Heart problems, hypertension, balance between nostrils.
Place the palms resting on the thighs. Stretch out the tongue forward partly out of the mouth and fold it so as to resemble the beak of the crow. Slowly suck in the air through the beak and feel the jet of cool air passing down the throat in to the lungs. Slowly exhale through the nostrils, feeling the movement of warm air all the way up from the lungs through the throat and nasal passages. Perform for nine rounds.
Place the palms resting on the thighs. Fold the tip of the tongue inwards horizontally. The folded tongue slightly comes out between the two rows of teeth and provides a narrow opening on both sides.
Slowly suck the air in through two sides of the tongue, feel the cool stream of air diffusing throughout the mouth and throat into the lungs. Exhale slowly through both nostril, feel the warmth of the exhaled air.
Therapeutic benefits: Anxiety neurosis, indigestion, hypertension.
Stithi: Comfortable meditation posture
Keep the head, neck and spine straight. Close the eyes, and relax the whole body. Take a deep breath in and breath out forcefully through nose. Do not strain. Practice nine rounds.
Contraindications: Should not practice people who suffer from high blood pressure.
Stithi: Meditation posture
Sit comfortable posture, head, neck and spine should be straight. Close eyes, close mouth and teeth. Plug the ears with index finger with both hands. Bring the awareness to the center of the head. Breath in through nose, exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep, steady humming sound like that of the black bee. At the end of the exhalation, breathe in deeply. Repeat the process for nine rounds.
Therapeutic benefits: Relieves stress and cerebral tension alleviating anger, anxiety and insomnia.
Sit comfortably in a meditation posture. Keep the head, neck, spine straight. Close the eyes, relax the whole body. Inhale deeply through both nostrils expanding the abdomen and exhale with a forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles. Do not strain.
The next inhalation takes place by passively allowing the abdominal muscles to expand. Inhalation should be spontaneous or passive recoil, involving no effort. Perform for nine rounds
Active: Exhalation, Passive: Inhalation
Avoid: Hypertension people, heart problems
Sit comfortably in a meditative posture. Head, neck, spine should be straight. Inhalation through right nostril, exhale through left nostril. Perform for nine rounds.
Inhalation: left nostril
Exhalation: right nostril
Repeat for nine rounds.
I. BANDHA: Means to hold, tighten or lock. Physical action, to lock the pranas in particular areas in the body.
II. MUDRAS: Gesture or attitude, can be described as psychic, emotional, devotional, aesthetic gestures or attitudes.
III. DHRISTI: Gazing
According to Yogic philosophy, the human framework is comprised to five bodies or sheaths.
These five sheaths function together to form an integral whole. The Pranayama Kosha is made up of five major Pranas.
Shad means six, Karma means action.
Six groups of purification practices. It creates the harmony between the two major pranic flows, ida, pingala. It also helps in attaining physical and mental purification and balance.
1. Neti – A process of cleaning and purifying the nasal passages.
Internal techniques clean the entire alimentary canal from the mouth to anus.
3. Nauli – A method of massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs.
4. Basti – Techniques for washing and toning the large intestines.
5. Kapal Bhati – A breathing technique for purifying the frontal region of the brain.
6. Trataka – The practice of intense gazing at one point or object which develops the power of concentration.