Prana Yoga or Pranayama is a great practice to bring balance to your mind and body.
Before you start getting into the details of prana yoga, which is also known as pranayama, there are some basic concepts you need to understand. These are the foundations of pranayama and you will need a very good understanding of these to get deeper into the principles of this set of breathing exercises.
So, scroll down to discover the ancient Indian practice of prana yoga and get yourself enlightened.
What is Prana Yoga?
Prana yoga is a form of yoga where the focus is laid on breathing. The word “prana” translates to “primary energy”. Since prana is the primal essence of this form of yoga, it has been named as “prana yoga”. Unlike other forms of yoga, which are more focussed on body postures, this form of yoga is oriented towards breathing.
To understand the concept in a better way, take a look at the basic levels of prana yoga and comprehend the meaning of each. Once you understand the concept, you can get down to practicing prana yoga and get the benefits from this exercise.
A little breakdown of prana yoga:
There are eight limbs of yoga, namely, yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).
Prana yoga is the fourth limb of yoga. It is the art of harnessing the basic life-force and channelizing it throughout the body. Prana is the energy which transcends one’s consciousness and awakens a dormant power lying within known as “kundalini shakti”.
When you master the art of controlling and directing prana throughout the body, you make yourself ready for other higher forms of yoga. With the control in breathing, you can gain many physical and mental health benefits which we will look into in the later part of this article.
What are the benefits of Prana Yoga/Pranayama?
There are numerous benefits of Pranayama. Some of the most common ones are as follows/;
- Prepares the mind for meditation.
- Helps you gain mental stability and keep mental diseases at bay.
- Improves the autonomic functions of the body.
- Helps in reducing weight.
- Helps in reducing oxidative stress in the body.
- Helps in curing skin ailments.
- Reduces symptoms of asthma.
- Boosts concentration of oxygen in the blood.
- Decreases natural decline of neurons.
- Activates dormant neurons.
- Improves will power and sound judgement making.
- Boosts the reach of oxygen to nerve endings.
- Excretes impurities from the body.
- Opens constricted arteries in the body.
Types of Prana Yoga/Pranayama:
Prana yoga is a great way to bring balance to your mind and body. While the objective of Prana yoga is the same, there are different types of prana yoga and each one comes with unique benefits.
So, what are the types of prana yoga and how to practice them? Let’s find out.
Note: There are many more types of Pranayama. This list has only some of the most common ones among them.
1. Nadi Shodhana
Seat in a cross-legged position. Keep your back straight such that your spine remains stretched out. Press your right thumb on your right nostril and take a deep breath through your left nostril. Now, hold your breath in this position for a few seconds. Release your breath and gently release your thumb and press your ring finger on your left nostril. Breathe in through your right nostril. Hold your breath and switch over to the other nostril. Repeat this cycle 10 to 15 minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
2. Shitali Pranayama
This prana yoga is used to cool down the body before meditation. Seat in a cross-legged position and take some deep breaths. Now, dart out your tongue and fold it from both sides making an “O” shape. Inhale deeply through your mouth. Exhale through your nose. Repeat this 5 to 10 times.
3. Ujjayi Pranayama
This pranayama can be done easily. Seat in a cross-legged position and breathe through your mouth. Constrict your throat while breathing in and out. This may cause a sound similar to the sound of ocean waves. After some time, you can switch to breathing through your nose. Use the similar constriction while breathing. Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.
4. Kapalabhati Pranayama
Seat in a comfortable position, preferably with your legs crossed. Breathe in normally 2 to 3 times. Now, breathe in deeply and breathe out with force. Your belly should move inwards as you exhale. As you inhale, it should come back to the normal position. Repeat this 20 to 30 times or as long as you feel comfortable.
5. Dirga Pranayama
This pranayama is practiced in three stages. Begin by lying down in a comfortable position. In the first stage, inhale air in such a way that it fills up your belly. Pause in this position for a few seconds. Now exhale completely while pushing back your belly. In the second stage, inhale a little more air and let it expand into the rib cage area of your body. Exhale and let your belly go inwards as if emptying it of all air. In the third stage, breathe in even more deeply and fill up your belly, rib cage, and heart center. Let it expand. Exhale slowly and let the air pass through each part as you draw your navel towards your spine. Repeat this process 5 to 6 times.
What is the best time to practice Pranayama?
You can practice Pranayama at any time. However, it is recommended to practice it in the early morning as the oxygen content is highest during that time of the day.
Which is the best place to practice Pranayama?
Pranayama requires deep breathing. Therefore, it is recommended to practice it in an open space, preferably in parks or gardens.
I am a beginner. Should I start practicing by myself?
The best way to begin practicing is to get guidance from a yoga teacher. This will help you learn pranayama the right way. Eventually, you can start practicing on your own.
Prana Yoga or Pranayama is the best practice for bringing well being and peace into your life. It is a powerful medium to balance your mind and body. Learning and practicing it the right way can change your life for the better.