Pranayama is a form of yoga that essentially relates to breathing exercises. Pranayama comprises two Sanskrit words of prāṇa meaning ‘breath or life force’ and ayama which means ‘to control and restrain breathing.’ Pranayama has three basic elements:
1. Exhalation or Rechaka
2. Inhalation or Puraka
3. Retention or Kumbhaka
Pranayama focuses on breathing as oxygen offers dynamic force to all the body organs. Pranayama provides good appetite, cheerfulness, beauty, strength, courage, enthusiasm, vigor, vitality, and good concentration of mind.
Any time is good for performing pranayama; however, mornings during sunrise are the best to perform these exercises. This is when oxygen is abundant in the atmosphere. Use a yoga mat and wear comfortable yoga pants or yoga tights during the yoga session.
Types of Pranayama
Natural Breathing: Natural breathing is the starting point of pranayama, as this helps to understand your breathing pattern. Try any time of the day, just sit straight and stay relaxed, and focus on the inhaling and exhaling through nostrils.
Basic Abdominal breathing: If you’ve practiced any pranayama before, this deep breathing exercise focuses the breathing on the diaphragm. Using the diaphragm and chest for breathing, ensures you use all the lobes of lungs.
Deep breathing with ratios (Bhastrika pranayama): The abdomen and chest rise and fall while breathing; therefore, start with normal breathing or yogic breathing, all the while concentrating on the stomach area. Do it five times and repeat. It is a great de-stressor and benefits heart by lowering blood pressure & heartbeat rate.
Clavicular (shallow) breathing: While breathing in, pull upper ribs and collarbones upwards the neck allowing smooth airflow into the lungs. Combine this with the thoracic breathing to de-stress.
Thoracic (spinal) breathing: To practice thoracic breathing, concentrate on expanding the ribcage when inhaling and contracting the chest when exhaling, all without using the diaphragm.
Yogic breathing: Need to apply pressure on the abdomen and chest while breathing, as it allows maximum inhalation and exhalation for smooth oxygen inflow in the body.
Fast Breathing: Done several ways, this type of fast breathing is done through both nostrils while closing left nostril and breathing by right nostril and then switching nostrils. This helps carbon dioxide levels to fall and increase oxygen levels in the blood.
Viloma or Interrupted Breathing: In this exercise, one needs to take deep but short breaths in spurts. Increase its intensity while you continue doing it. Perform it for few rounds then observe an enhanced vitality in both the lungs and while breathing.
Anulom-Vilom or Alternate Nostril Breathing: Acclaimed to do wonders to the body, begin Anulom-Vilompranayama with the Padmasana pose. Close the left nostril with the left thumb. Inhale slowly through right nostril deeply, and then exhale through the left nostril. Continue with the other nostril.
Sheetali, Sitkari, and Kaki mudra: These pranayamas keep the body cool and keep the heart and blood pressure levels in order. For Sheetali, roll the tongue inside your mouth like a tube, then inhale through that tube. In Sitkari, one needs to inhale through the clenched teeth. In Kaki mudra, one needs to inhale through beak-like rounded lips. With all three forms, the exhaling should be through the nose.
Uttama or superior Pranayama: Ujjayi Bhramari, NadiShodhan, Kapal Bharti, Bhastrika, Dirga, and Surya Bhedan.
Accomplish each, then move on to next—but remember to wear cool yoga pants and yoga tights while performing.