Breathing is an involuntary action taken by a part of the brain called the medulla oblongata. And no, this article isn’t about brain functioning but Pranayama Types and the way to perform it. The purpose is to highlight that though breathing is automatic and continuous, since our birth, we hardly take out time to be conscious and grateful for that.
There are approximately 7 crore 30 lakh pores in our lungs, like those in honeycomb, responsible for breathing. When we breathe normally we use only one-fourth of our lung’s capacity by activating only 2 crore such pores. But when we practice various types of Pranayama in Yoga, we increase the capacity of our lungs and thus vitalize our whole system.
What’s Pranayama in Yoga?
Pranayaam is one of the 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra that focuses on the breath. ‘Prana’ is energy or life force that sustains our body and mind. It exists in everything that exists in this universe. ‘Ayama’ is expansion. Together the two words mean an expansion of energy flow throughout the body. Some also put Pranayama as the combination of ‘Prana’, i.e. energy and ‘Yama’, i.e restraint. So Pranayama can also be translated to control of breath or energy flow. Simply put, Pranayama is conscious rhythmic breathing.
Eight Pranayama Types
Pranayaama is a wide field in itself. It offers a variety of breathing techniques that serve as a means to reach a higher state of being. There are three aspects of Pranayaam: breathing in i.e. Puraka, holding the breath i.e. Kumbhaka, and breathing out i.e Rechaka. Holding the breath after Puraka is called Abhyantara Kumbhaka whereas it is called Bahya Kumbhaka when the breath is held after Rechaka. Now let’s have a look at 8 Types of Pranayama in Hatha yoga:
1. Bhastrika Pranayama
Bhastrika translates to bellows used for fanning the fire and hence also known as Bellows Breath. It is rapid inhalation and exhalation.
How to do Bhastrika Pranayaam?
1) Sit upright in Sukhasana or Vajrasana.
2) Keep your hands on your knees in Gyan mudra.
3) Ensure you’re empty stomach.
4) Breathe intake fully through the nose.
5) Breathe out fully through the nose, slightly forcefully.
6) Again, breathe in immediately with the same force.
7) Repeat the rhythmic cycle of deep inhalation and exhalation 10 times.
8) Do three such cycles in one session.
2. Kapalbhati Pranayama
‘Kapala’ means skull and ‘bhati’ means illuminating hence the word kapalbhati suggests the development of the brain. It is actually a Shatkarma, a purification technique in Hatha Yoga instead-but related to the breathing process.
How to do Kapalbhati?
1) Sit in Padmasana.
2) Take a deep breath in.
3) Draw your stomach inward as much as possible while exhaling.
4) Release the tension in stomach muscles and inhaling follows automatically.
5) Repeat the above process as long as you can without tiring out yourself.
6) Gradually increase the pace and duration of a session of Kapalbhati.
3. Bahya Pranayama
Bahya interprets as ‘Outside’. This Pranayama is named so as the retention of breath takes place after exhaling it. It consists of Tribandhas. Tribandha literally means three locks. These three are basically energy locks, namely JalandhraBandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and Mula Bandha i.e. Chin lock, Upper Abdominal lock, and Root lock respectively.
How to do Tribandha Pranayaam?
1) Sit upright in Padmasana and close your eyes.
2) Take a deep breath in and exhale it with force.
3) Hold your breath after exhaling. This is called Bahya Kumbhaka.
4) Bend your head forward and press the chin against your chest to apply Jalandhar Bandha.
5) Now apply Uddiyana Bandha by pulling your stomach in towards your back.
6) For the final energy lock that is Mula Bandha tightens the muscles around the anus and pelvic floor.
7) Hold the breath out ideally for 20-30 seconds or as long as you can.
8) Now release the three locks step by step as you inhale.
9) Repeat the whole process 3 to 5 times as a beginner.
4. Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi is formed of ‘ud’ and ‘ji’, meaning ‘to be victorious’. Hence, Ujjayi breath is also known as Victorious Breath. Due to constriction of the throat, it involves soft hissing sound and hence also called Cobra Breath.
How to do Ujjayi Pranayama?
1) Sit comfortably upright in Sukhasana.
2) Keep mouth close and throat constricted.
3) Take a short breath out.
4) now take an unbroken deep breath in through constricted throat.
5) Inhale until chest feels fully filled.
6) Hold the breath for twice the duration of inhalation.
7) Exhale smoothly and naturally.
8) Repeat it 5 times with a short pause in-between each time.
5. Anulom-Vilom Pranayama
If you’ve even a slight idea of Types of Pranayama you must be aware of Anulom Vilom. Anuloma means ‘with the grain’ that implies ‘natural’. Viloma is the opposite, meaning ‘against the grain’.
How to do Anulom Vilom?
1) Sit in Padmasana.
2) Place your hands on your knees in dhyana mudra.
3) Use your right thumb to block your right nostril.
4) Inhale fully through the left nostril.
5) Remove the thumb from the right nostril and simultaneously exhale through it.
6) Use the middle finger of the right hand to block the left nostril as soon as you remove the thumb.
7) Focus on the breath while being in the process.
8) Repeat this cycle as long as you’re comfortable.
6. Bhramari Pranayama
Bhramari is a Sanskrit term for a black Indian bee. This pranayaam has been named so as the sound produced during exhalation resembles that of a buzzing bee. Thus, it is also called Bee Breath.
How to do Bhramari Pranayama?
1) Sit in Padmasana.
2) Close your eyes.
3) Put your thumbs above the ear lids to close them.
4) Place index fingers just above the eyebrows.
5) Use the remaining three fingers to cover your eyes and apply gentle pressure on the sides of your nose.
6) Focus between the eyebrows.
7) Keep your mouth closed.
8) Exhale slowly through nose while producing humming sound of Aum.
9) Repeat it 5 times.
7. Udgeeth Pranayama
Udgeeth Pranayama is associated with a deep and rhythmic chant of Aum and hence also called OmkariJaap. Aum is a sacred sound that translates to Supreme or Source.
How to do Udgeeth Pranayama?
1) Sit upright in Padmasana with hands placed on knees in dhyana mudra.
2) Take a deep breath in through nostrils.
3) Breathe out through nostrils while chanting the word Aum.
4) Keep in mind to produce the sound of O longer than M loud enough to be audible to you.
5) Focus on the breath.
6) Repeat the cycle of chants as long as you wish.
8. Pranava Pranayama
Pranava is synonymous with the divine sound of Aum. Pranava Pranayama is a simple meditation breathing.
How to do Pranava Pranayama?
1) Sit comfortably in Padmasana with hands-on knees in dhyana mudra and eyes closed.
2) Inhale and exhale normally but consciously.
3) Focus on the area between your eyebrows.
4) As you inhale, imagine the Aum symbol to be illuminating.
5) As you exhale, imagine it to be diminishing.
6) If you wish you can also bring your awareness to the chanting of Aum.
7) Repeat the cycle 10 times.
8) Rub your palms together and feel the heat of it over your eyes.
9) Slowly open your eyes.
Benefits of Pranayaam
It doesn’t require scientific studies to confirm the ample amount of benefits one can have from Pranayama. If one does these Pranayamas under the right guidance one can observe positive changes in oneself from the first session itself.
1) Increases vitality of cells and tissues and hence improves the functioning of various organs.
2) Reduces stress and calms the mind.
3) Improves respiratory system.
4) Improves digestive system.
5) Increases concentration and mindfulness.
There are several research papers out there for the world to know the effectiveness of Pranayaam but the best way for you to know is to practice yourself under the guidance of a practitioner. And you can get effective Yoga Training from the best Yoga school.
The release of tension through the body can be felt as an immediate gain while long-term gains come from the long-term investment of your mind and body into channelizing your energy. Carefully read this article to gain more out Pranayama Types.