"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 healthy body and mind.
Patanjali in his text of Yoga Sutras mentioned pranayama as means of
attaining higher states of awareness, he mentions the holding of breath
as 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. Practice of Pranayama achieves the balance in the activities of
these pranas, which results in healthy body and mind.
Types Of Pranayama
Quiet Breathing , Deep Breathing , Fast Breathing
Tribandha and Pranayama
Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama or Anuloma - Viloma (Alternate nostril breathing -
Anuloma - Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing - II)
Suryan Bhedan Pranayama (Right Nostril Breathing)
Pranayama from Hatha Yoga (Surya Bhedan, Bhasrika, Ujjayi, Shitali,
Sitkari, Bhramari, Murchha & Plavini Pranayama)
Preparation for Pranayama
As people have attraction towards Yogasanas, similarly they have
attraction to Pranayama. The process of Pranayama is concerned with the
breathing, the indicator of life. And therefore, if it is done wrongly,
it may do harm to the person. This fear dissuades many from taking up
Pranayama. The second reason for its unpopularity is the absence of
teachers who can teach it scientifically. However, it is true that if one
does Pranayama unscientifically, without proper guidance, one certainly
suffers. But it does not mean that it is such a difficult process, that
it cannot be done by a common man. On the contrary, if it is learnt and
practiced under an expert's guidance, one learns soon and experiences the
wonderful and even unimaginable benefits.
In Patanjali's "Ashtanga Yoga", Pranayama appears at the fourth stage.
This means unless one observes Yama-Niyama and does Asanas well, he
cannot reach this fourth stage. Even the Asanas discussed here are
presented in their preliminary form. Therefore, for doing Pranayama, it
is not enough to have done the Asanas as mentioned here. Even after
learning these Asanas and having practiced them, one needs some
preparation before actually taking up Pranayama. And an attempt is made
to discuss that preparation. Actual Pranayama means the holding up of the
process of exhaling and inhaling. And it is not possible to discuss or
guide this serious aspect of Yogabhyasa in preliminary discussion.
Therefore, as the preliminary exercises are discussed and which are to be
done before the actual beginning of the Asanas: similarly, for Pranayama
too, the preliminary exercises of breathing are designed and only this
part is going to be discussed here.
Before examining the exercises of breathing it is necessary to understand
the process of breathing. The breathing process chiefly involves two
activities, viz., inhaling and exhaling. Of these the former is called "Puraka"
and the latter "Rechaka"' in Yogashastra. These two activities continue
non-stop right from the birth to the death of a person. The state when
these two activities are made to halt is given the name "Kumbhaka" in
Yoga Studies. The halt after inhaling, i.e., Puraka is called "Abhyantara
Kumbhaka" and after exhaling, i.e. rechaka. It is called "Bahya Kumbhaka".
Two more types of Kumbhaka are mentioned. But instead of talking of them
in detail, let us turn to the process of breathing.
According to the speed of breathing, it is divided into three parts:
The smooth breathing that continues naturally without any effort (Quiet
The protracted breathing which is caused by deliberate slowing down of
the breathing (Deep Breathing)
The quick breathing which is caused by deliberate increase in the speed
of breathing (Fast Breathing)
Pranava Mudra for Pranayama (Body Gestures & Mental Attitudes)
first two fingers of the right hand palm are to be curved and last two
fingers are to be kept straight and to be held together. Now straighten
the thumb and bending the right hand in the elbow, place the curved
fingers in such a way that they come near the lips. Keep the hand from
shoulder to elbow glued to the chest. Keep the right hand thumb on the
right side of the nose and last two fingers on the left side of the nose.
Now by pressing the thumb, the nasal cavity on the right side can be
closed and by pressing the last two fingers left side cavity can be
closed. The pressure should be light and on just below the nasal bone,
where the fleshy part begins. With this arrangement of the fingers, one
can close any of the two nasal cavities. Here only the movement of thumb
and the last two fingers is expected.
Movement of other parts should be avoided. The face should be kept quite
gay and relaxed in order to practice breathing more effectively. Further,
in order to practice the cycle of inhaling and exhaling, six
supplementary types are given. In all these types, the speed of breathing
is more. These are actually the types of quick breathing. While
practicing these types one should first sit in one of the following
Asanas: Padmasana, Vajrasana or Swastikasana. Then, the left hand should
be kept in Dhyana Mudra and the right hand in Pranava Mudra. The eyes
should be closed and the whole attention should be concentrated on
breathing so that it will be possible to acquire it.
Type - 1 Keep both the nostrils open and then inhale and exhale with both
the nasal passages. This type is nothing but quick breathing with both
the nasal cavities. One should inhale and exhale with as much speed as
possible and for as much time as feasible.
Type - 2 Take up Pranava Mudra and close the right nostril with the help
of the thumb of the right hand, and inhale with left nostril and also
exhale through the same nasal passage. In brief this type can be
described as quick breathing with the left nostril.
Type - 3 In this type left nostril is to be closed and the quick
breathing is done with the right nostril.
Type – 4 n this type close the right nostril, and inhale with the left
nostril, and then immediately close left nostril and exhale with the
right nostril. In this way try quick breathing by changing the nostrils.
Type - 5 This type of breathing is just opposite the previous one, that
is, the left nostril is closed and inhaling is done with the right
nostril, then immediately closing the right nostril, exhaling is done
with the left nostril.
Type - 6 This type of breathing is designed by combining previous two
types i.e., type 4 and type 5. First inhale with left nostril and exhale
with right one, then inhale with right nostril and exhale with left
nostril. Later continue the same process i.e. inhaling & exhaling with
left and right nostrils alternately. Further switch to fast breathing by
increasing the speed of breathing. After sufficient practice the speed of
breathing can be increased immensely.
Initially one should start with eleven cycles of breathing, and it should
be increased to one hundred and twenty one without any fear. However,
later the breathing should be made a part of daily practice of other
Asanas, and be practiced for two to three minutes. All these types can
also be practiced with slow inhalation and exhalation. Here it is
important to note that practicing these types of breathing does not mean
doing Pranayama. This is simply a preparation of the actual practice of