Sunday 23 March 2014


2014-12  Yoga for Better Health:  Yoga Pranayama Practice

Purpose of Pranayama

The purpose of pranayama is to make the respiratory system function at its best. This automatically improves the circulatory system, without which the processes of digestion and elimination would suffer. The respiratory system is the gateway to purifying the body, mind and intellect. The key to this is pranayama. 

The breathing cycle consists of three parts: inhalation, exhalation and retention.  In pranayamic breathing, thentire lungs are used to theifullest capacity. Breathing is made more efficient by changing its rate, depth and quality. Better breathing means a better and healthier life.

Supine Pranayama
In Light on Pranayama, BKS Iyengar says the practitioner needs two essential things: a stable spine and a still, but alert, mind. Both of these are built up with a strong asana practice.

When lying down for pranayama, use blankets to support the spine and head. When the props are positioned correctly, the chest opens and relaxation results. 

Pranayama begins with observation. Lie down; relax your entire body and begin to observe your breath. After several minutes, you will notice that your breath has become slower and slightly deeper, because you have relaxed. 

If you feel relaxed and calm in your body, especially in your head, practice the complete cycle: slowly and smoothly exhale; a short pause at the end of an exhalation; then a slow, relaxed inhalation initiated by the rib cage moving outward; a slight pause at the end. 

All of this should be done without any tension in the body. Practice this pranayama as long as you can stay focused and relaxed. Start slowly and build up your practice over time.

Seated Pranayama
In order to do pranayama in a seated position without strain, the body must be quite supple and strong. A steady asana practice will build the necessary strength and flexibility.

Sit in a simple cross-legged position. Use enough blankets under your hips so that your knees are parallel to or below your hips, not above them. 

To sit correctly, center yourself on the points of the sitting bones and draw the front spine and side chest up without creating hardness in the low back. 

When you practice pranayama in a seated position, you must move the head down to create Jalandhara BandhaA lifted head brings pressure to the heart, brain, eyes, and ears.

Sukha Puraka Pranayama

In the beginning stages of Pranayama, there should be no retention of the breath, but only deep inhalation and exhalation. The Prana has first to be brought to accept the conditions that are going to be imposed on it, and hence any attempt to practice retention should be avoided.

In place of the quick breathing that we do daily, a slow breathing should be substituted, and instead of the usually shallow breathing, deep breathing should be practiced, gradually. 

Vexed minds breathe with an unsymmetrical flow. Submerged worries are likely to disturb Pranayama. One may be doing one’s functions like office-going, daily, and yet be calm in mind. But another may do nothing and be highly nervous, worried and sunk in sorrow. One should be careful to see that the mind is amenable to the practice.

 In breathing for health, the chest should be forward during inhalation. We feel a joy when we take a long breath with the chest expanded to the full. Deep intakes of fresh air daily are essential for the maintenance of sound health. An open air life for not less than two hours a day should be compulsory. Pranayama is a method not only of harmonizing the breath but also the senses and the mind. 

One should not sit for Pranayama in an unhappy condition of mind, because a grieved mind creates unrhythmic breathing. No Pranayama should be practiced when one is hungry or tired or is in a state of emotional disturbance. When everything is calm, then one may start the Pranayama. 

Be seated in a well-ventilated room and take in a deep breath. Then, exhale slowly. This practice should continue for sometime, say, a month. Afterwards, the regular Pranayama with proportion in respiration may be commenced. The technical kind of breathing which, in Yoga, generally goes by the name of Pranayama is done in two stages:

Exhale with a slow and deep breath. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the right ring finger and removing the right thumb from the right nostril, exhale very slowly through the right nostril. Then, reverse the process commencing with inhalation through the right nostril. This is the intermediary stage of Pranayama without retention of breath and with only alternate inhalation and exhalation. This practice may be continued for another month.

Perfected Pranyama with proportion 1:4:2

In the third month, the perfected Pranayama may be started: Inhale, as before, through the left nostril; retain the breath until you repeat your Ishta Mantra once; and then exhale slowly. The proportion of inhalation, retention and exhalation is supposed to be 1:4:2. Generally, the counting of this proportion is done by what is called a Matra, which is, roughly, about 3 seconds. You inhale for one Matra, retain for four Matras, and exhale for two Matras.

There should be no haste in increasing the time of retention. Whether you are comfortable during retention or not is the test for the duration of retention. There should be no feeling of suffocation in retention. The rule applicable to Asana is valid to Pranayama, also.

Sthira and Sukha, ease and comfort, without strain or pain of any kind, are both essential for the practice of Asana and Pranayama.   

The length of time of Pranayama depends on individual condition of the body, the type of Sadhana one does and the kind of life one leads. All these are important factors which have to be taken into consideration.

The normal variety of Pranayama in Yoga is the one described above, and it is termed ‘Sukhapuraka’ (easy of practice). The other types of Pranayama such as the Bhastrika, Sitali, etc., are only auxiliaries and not essential to the Yoga of meditation.

There are many details discussed in Hatha Yoga concerning Pranayama. One of them, for instance, is that in retention a threefold-lock (Bandha-traya) consisting of Mulabandha, Uddiyanabandha and Jalandharabandha is preferable. 

But these are all not directly related to the aim of Yoga. Pranayama is not the goal of Yoga but only a means to it. Ultimately, it is the mind which has to be subdued and Pranayama, etc. are the preparations. 

Post-Pranayama Savasana, variation
After practicing pranayama of any kind, it is important to end with Savasana in order to soothe the nerves and erase any tension that you may have inadvertently created during the practice.

Allow for a gentle transition between pranayama and any activity you choose to engage in. After pranayama, you should wait at least 30 minutes before practicing Asanas. 


Video Ramdev Yoga for Children [English] [Click here] 66m 

Video Ramdev Bastrika Kapalbhati AnulomVilom  [English] [Click here] 10m

Video Ramdev Pranayama [English] [Click here] 66m


1 comment:

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