Pranayama

I would like to write about a special breathing practice, which is called Paranayama. We all know that breathing is something that we do every day, 24/7, but don’t really pay any attention to it most of the time. If I tell you what life changing benefits you can get out of Pranayama, I am sure it will make you so much interested that you will start practicing it on a daily basis.

Pranayama is made up of two words i.e. “prana” meaning breath and “yana” meaning to control or restrain. Pranayama, therefore, means to control the breath. Without breathing, we obviously can’t live. Prana is a vital element of our existence on this earth. The only thing we ought to do is take good care of this precious gift God has given us. Utilization of this energy source gifted to us is crucial to ensuring we stay a healthy and disease free lifestyle.

The benefits of pranayama can’t be underscored. There are intangible (that can’t be touched) and tangible (that can be perceived by the sense of touch) advantages.

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Controlled breathing rate!

I am sure you know it already or at least heard it from your friends – Yoga is great for the mind, soul and it will also help you to control your breathing a lot. So another way to practice Paranayama is trough Yoga, it will enable you reduce your breathing rate and breathe more deeply and slowly.

But can you imagine?! With Pranayama, you can reduce your rate of breathing from 13-16 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths!

A decreased respiratory rate leads to the following

  • More oxygen will be pumped into the lungs due to the slower and deeper breaths
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relaxation of the body muscles and joints
  • Eased nerves
  • Internal organs will be relaxed leading to less wear and tear hence a healthier lifestyle

Backlight profile of a woman breathing deep fresh air in the morning sunrise isolated in white above

Increase in life

According to yoga, breathing increases longevity. The deeper and slower you respire, the longer you will live. For instance, tortoises breathe 4-5 times a minute, and they end up living more than 200 years.

Improved blood circulation

When we breathe, fresh oxygen enters our bodies, and we exhale carbon dioxide. Oxygen travels from our nostrils to our lungs and later on to the heart. Once it reaches the heart, it is pumped into the veins and arteries throughout the body. Therefore, deeper breaths lead to better blood circulation and a revitalized life.

A healthy heart

It’s common knowledge that the heart is the most conscientious organ in the body. Once it stops beating, that’s the end of life. It beats close to 101, 000 times a day. There is not a single minute it has stopped, whether you are resting or sleeping. Your life expectancy will mainly be determined by how healthy your heart is. The more oxygen you breathe, the more oxygen and blood is passed through the heart leading to the more youthful heart. The lesser oxygen you breathe, the lesser blood will be pumped through your veins and arteries leading to a weakened immune system and lower energy levels. You will feel weak, and your muscles and joints will be frail.

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Benefits to the body

Pranayama will have a positive effect on various body organs such as the kidneys, abdomen, heart, pancreas, intestines, diaphragm, and the lungs.

An improved digestive. Digestive system related problems will be cured with better breathing techniques.

Reduced lethargy and improved energy levels.

With more oxygen in the blood, toxins will be removed from the body leading to a better well-being and an improved immune system. Removal of toxins and a better immune system means the onset of illnesses is easily prevented.

Improved mental health

Pranayama frees us from all forms of stress and depression related issues such as anger and lasciviousness. You will be freed from all mental conditions bad characters traits such as arrogance, egotism, and greed for the earthly possessions such as money.

Yoga is great for the mind and soul. Pranayama practice will help you feel relieved, calm, a sense of body lightness, inner peace, and better concentration. You will experience better memory, improved sleep patterns, and enhanced skills.

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Enhances life quality in old age.

The world is changing, and unfortunately, we are engaging in more sedentary lifestyles. We are exercising less, walking less (because we think having a car is the most important thing to own), and spending more time on our smartphones and computers. We are becoming zombies. Living such a lifestyle will lead to your lung capacity decreasing as the lung tissues grow less elastic.

Such a lifestyle means we will have a poor quality of life in our old age. Pranayama will help improve this quality and help us live a better life when we are retired.

Old age problems that yoga will reduce include:

  • Hardened arteries which may lead to lower circulation of blood in the body
  • Rheumatism, headaches and backaches.
  • Muscle pains, stiff joints and weakened bones.
  • Pranayama will also lower the buildup of uric acid in the body which can have adverse effects such as discomfort and chronic joint pains.

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Reduced stress

Once you feel stressed, your body will experience bursts of energy to counter any form of danger that may come your way. Scientifically this is known as the fight or flight effect. You will experience faster and shallow breaths which mean less oxygen will be inhaled and consequently pumped into your bloodstream.

Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline will be produced which increases the blood pressure and heart rate. However, with breathing you can be able to control all these. Deep breathing will give you a sense of calm. Your heart, mind, body, and soul will be peaceful. Deep slow breaths reverse the effects of adrenaline by stimulating the vagus nerve in the parasympathetic nerve system which lowers the heart rates and blood pressure which eventually leads to a calm mind and body.

Your emotional state will be improved with deep controlled breathing techniques. You will be less reactive to your emotions due to a relaxed spirit.

The stages of the breathing process include

Puraka known as inhalation- Here you breathe in deep and slow, and you fill your lungs with air.

Kumbhaka i.e. retention. This is the second stage where body temperatures are raised, and oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream.

Rechaka i.e. exhalation. You release the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the lungs and diaphragm return to its normal position.

Young woman enjoying coffee while lying in the bath with foam and candles

Types of Pranayama

Bhastrika

This means to bellow, i.e. produce a blast of air. Just as a bellow is used to generate lots of air, you ought to breathe in and out rapidly. To practice the Bhastrika Pranayama, sit in a comfortable position and inhale in and out while closing your mouth, expanding and contracting your chest.

Start with 10-15 breaths then increase them to 25-30 breaths. Remember inhaling deeply is the whole point of Pranayama. Retain the air in your chest for as long as you can, then slowly release the carbon dioxide.

Bhastrika Pranayama leads to

  • Reduced throat inflammation
  • Eradicates asthma
  • Destroys phlegm
  • Eliminates all diseases related to the lungs, throat and bile.

Suryabheda

Ensure you are in a comfortable position such as siddhasana. Keep your eyes shut when practicing this Pranayama. Close the left nostril and slowly inhale air through the right nostril. Once you have inhaled enough air (you should be comfortable), close the right nostril with your thumb and retain the air by pressing your jaw against your chest. Increase the rates of retention until sweat is slowly excreted from the hair roots.

Exhale slowly without producing any form of a sound through the left nostril with the right nostril is still closed using your thumb.

Benefits of Suryabheda Pranayama

  • It eliminates any decay in the body
  • It also destroys any worms in the digestive system
  • It cures illnesses such as sinusitis, rhinitis, and rheumatism
  • Suryabheda Pranayama also clears the brain and purifies it.

Ujjayi

Before beginning this Pranayama sit in the siddhasana position and keep your mouth closed at all times. Inspire slowly through both nostrils in a smooth, comfortable pace. Close your mouth once the inhaled air fills up your lungs until the end of your throat. Enlarge your chest when breathing in.

When you are inhaling, there is a weird but uniform sound that will be produced due to the partial closing of the throat. Ensure you are in a comfortable position when breathing and retaining the air in your lungs and throat. Then slowly respire through the nostrils. The best thing about Ujjayi Pranayama is that it can be performed even when during your normal day activities e.g. when at work, or even when walking.

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama include

  • Reduces the amounts of heat in the head.
  • Removes phlegm and increases the gastric fire in the body
  • Curing of pulmonary illnesses such as asthma
  • Reduces occurrence of heart-related illnesses

Bhramari

Ensure you are in a padmasana sitting position before starting the Bhramari Pranayama. Breathe in through both nostrils and expire while making the sound of a bee. Repeat the inspiring and expiring severally until the body is soaked in perspiration.

Once you feel like you have perspired enough, inhale deeply through both nostrils and retain the air as long as you are comfortable then let out the carbon dioxide slowly through the two nostrils. You will feel calm and joyful once you are done with this procedure.

Benefits

  • When you start the process, there will be increased body temperature and consequently improved blood circulation throughout the body
  • When you conclude the process, body heat will be reduced through sweating.

Sheetkari

This Pranayama is a little different from others as it involves folding the tongue till it touches the upper part of the mouth. Once you do that, inhale through your mouth while making a hissing sound. Ensure you are comfortable while inhaling, then respire slowly through the two nostrils.

You can choose to keep the upper and lower jaws in contact when breathing in and repeat that process severally.

Benefits include

  • It boosts robustness and beauty. You will be full of strength and life
  • Eliminating problems such as insomnia, hunger, sluggishness, and dehydration.

Sheetali

Sit in a comfortable position. Stick out your tongue straight and fold it like a tube. Then inhale air through the mouth while making a weird but uniform hissing sound. Expand your lungs and retain the air as much as you can. Relax a little bit, then respire the carbon dioxide slowly through the right and left nostrils.

Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama include

    • Blood purity. Your blood and circulatory system will be pure and toxic waste will be exhaled.
    • Quenching of thirst. You will feel better and rehydrated
    • This practice also reduces the hunger pangs and cools the body.

Plavini

The Plavini Pranayama is unique as it involves drinking air from the mouth to the stomach like water. ‘Drink’ the air until the stomach is ballooned a bit. You have to hear some hollow sound when you tap your stomach.

Practice the said procedure slowly. Once you have practiced enough, allow air out. Belch out the air repeatedly.

Benefits

  • Those who have perfected this Pranayama can float for lots of hours on water
  • Persons with this skill can stay without food for several days

Anulom-Vilom

Sit in a comfortable position. Use your right thumb to seal the right nostril and inspire using the left nostril. Breathe in the air to the lungs and not the stomach. Seal the left nostril and expire using the right nostril. Do the said procedure repeatedly.

Then close the left nostril and inspire through the right nostril. Seal the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat those steps severally.

Anulom-Vilom Pranayama leads to

    • Stable body temperatures
    • Lengthens life
    • Reduces stress
    • Removal of toxins from the body
    • Better blood circulation

Chandrabhedan

Sit in a comfortable position on the floor. Your shoulders should be straight and relaxed, and the back should be upright. Seal your right nostril with the right thumb and inspire through the left nostril. Ensure you are comfortable when inhaling to the lungs. Seal the left nostril using your right-hand index finger and exhale through the right nostril.

Repeat the procedure above for 15-20 times.

Benefits include

  • Curing heartburns
  • Stabilizes the body’s temperatures
  • Cooling the body

It’s important to note that this Pranayama shouldn’t be practiced by people who suffer from low blood pressure. It should also be done only during the summer and not any other season.

Pranayama for Children

So now that you have learned the most popular Pranayama techniques, how do you go about teaching your kids such methods of cleansing the body and living a healthy lifestyle?

Pranayama helps children find inner peace and harmony. Pranayama will uplift their moods and spirit; they will learn how to deal better with nerve-wracking or anxious situations. Practicing such yoga techniques is fun.

Steam Train Method

This is particularly popular with baby class or prekindergarten kids. The first step is to sit in a comfortable position such as a crossed- legged position. Instruct them to seal their nostrils using the upper lip. Then, breathe in through the nose forcing the inhalation to sound like a steaming train.

Gradually speed up the breathing in and out. This particular Pranayama method is critical as it calms the minds of the kids and betters blood circulation in the body.

Dragon Breath Technique

This is another popular Pranayama method for children. It’s slightly different from the steam train method because it involves letting out the toxic carbon dioxide to the universe. The mouth should be kept wide open, and exhaled gas let out to the universe.

The first step is to be in a kneeling position. Instruct them to should raise their hands in the air and outstretch their fingers. Inhale through the nose slowly until the lungs are filled with air. When exhaling, the kids should stretch their arms in front and exhale through the mouth. It’s an entertaining process, and I’m also pretty sure the kids would have fun pretending they are a dragon.

With the hand and fingers movements, the kids are stretching and relaxing their upper body.

 

The Mantra

Using a mantra in the form of a poem, encourage the children to breathe in and out. A mantra will help them improve their concentration, cleanse their bodies and enhance awareness. A chosen mantra should be something that will uplift, calm or empower the kids.

Reciting loudly or quietly, the kids can recite the mantra below.

There (inhale) is (exhale)

Nothing (inhale) that (exhale)

Can (inhale) stop (exhale)

Me (inhale) from (exhale)

Accomplishing (inhale)

My dreams (exhale)

The three named Pranayama for kids can be practiced by kids who are up to the age of 18. They can be used as a good base for teaching the more complex Pranayama techniques such as Chandrabhedan, Anulom-Vilom, Plavini, Sheetali, and Sheetkari et al. They are great for the mind, body and soul. They can be particularly useful for the children who suffer from anxiety issues, and stress related problems such as depression.

They can be performed during any season the year or whichever time of the day or night. Encourage your kids or younger siblings to practice Pranayama for kids as there is no other perfect gift – blissful moment – you can give your child or younger sibling(s).

 

With love,

Your Grace Guru

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