Pranayama Yoga- Practice, Theory & Techniques for Beginners

What is Pranayama Yoga?

The best to generate abundant energy and vitality is through the practice of Pranayama in Yoga.

Concept of Pranayam-:

Prana refers to the vital force pervading the entire universe and representing the principle of cosmic energy. It exists in all forms from highest to lowest both in animate to inanimate objects. Everything in this world its existence to the presence of ‘Prana’. It is responsible for the growth process in this world. It is the same Prana that manifests in the form of electricity, gravity, magnetism, etc. It is manifested as the actions of the human body, as nerve currents, and also as thinking force. From thought down to the lowest force, everything is nothing but the manifestation of Prana.

Definition of Pranayama-:

Ancient Yogis in India innovated a variety of techniques to draw more Prana from the atmosphere and also to preserve excess Prana in the solar plexus. In normal breathing, our intake of Prana is very little. The techniques innovated in this regard are called Pranayama in Yoga.

Yama denotes to control. Prana refers to the life force. Pranayama is the control of bio-energy (life force) through the respiratory system. Pranayama denotes a pause in the movement of breath, referring, to the process of control of the life force through the act of breathing.

It may be defined as a systematic approach designed to bring about perfect control over flow of Prana throughout the body by the application of certain methods and techniques achieved through of physical breathing. This is the actual definition of pranayama.

Methods for respiration:

There are four methods of pranayama breath.

  1. High Breathing,
  2. Mid Breathing,
  3. Low Breathing,
  4. Yogic Breathing

 In pranayama breathing techniques the first one is High Breathing, it is known as clavicular breathing or collarbone breathing. In this form of repiration, the ribs, collarbone, and shoulder are raised abd abdomen is drown in. The upper past of chest is used and the result is the minimum amount of air enters the lower part of the lungs. This type of breathing may be practiced by placing one hand on the upper chest just below the collarbone and breathing deeply in and out while directing the consciousness to breathe and fill the upper part of the lungs.

The second breathing technique is Mid Breathing, it is also called rib breathing or inter-costal breathing. In mid breathing, the diaphragm is pushed upwards and the abdomen drawn in. The ribs are raised to some extent and chest is partially extended. Here the flow of air and Prana gets into the mid-chest and heart area. Women are good mid breathers and, therefore less prone to heart diseases than men. Mid breathing can be consciously developed by placing one hand on the chest between the breast and breathing deeply in and out.

The 3rd one is Low breathing,  it is also called abdominal breathing, deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. This is the natural form of breathing but ladies are poor abdominal breathers. Here the flow of air enters the area below the navel. In order to practice low breathing place your hand on the diaphragm and breathe deeply in and out, and consciously make an effort to pass air into the lowest part of lungs.

In the above methods, only a part of the lungs is filled with air. Therefore it is necessary to develop a habit of breathing. In which we can fill our entire lungs, and thereby, the maximum quantity of oxygen is absorbed and also the maximum amount of Prana stored in nervous system. This is accomplished by yogic breathing exercise. Such breathing covers all good aspects of high breathing, mid breathing and low breathing. An important aspect of this method is that all respiratory muscles are fully called into play.

yogic breathing exercise may be practiced by placing one hand on the diaphragm and second hand on the mid chest. The lower hand may be raised to the high chest area after the lower lobes are filled. During this process, the hands are placed in a way that facilitates consciousness to direct the flow of air to first enter the lower lobes of the lungs, then the middle and finally the high-chest area of the lungs. While breathing out, the air should come out first from the abdomen, then the middle and finally the high chest area of the lungs. While breathing out, the air should come out first from the abdomen, then from the mid and high chest, respectively.

Yogic breathing is the foundation on which the entire edifice of the science of Pranayama has been constructed. Therefore the Pranayama students should first thoroughly acquaint himself with it before wishing to obtain fruitful results from the other forms of Pranayama.

Prana and Oxygen-:

Prana represents energy and oxygen is a substance. Prana cannot be Isolated and identified, whereas, oxygen can be separated from other substances. The atmosphere air contains oxygen charged with prana, which is the vital force which sustain human life. The life force (prana) in the living being is called Purusha, while that in the universe is known as Prakriti(Nature). There is constant interaction between Purusha and Prakriti through the process of breathing. The life force reaches every cell of the human body through the oxygen we breath in with air-that is, from Prakriti. The moment the interaction between these two is severed, the living being embraces death. Oxygen is not the life force. It is only a vehicle to carry Prana, just as a wire transmits electric power.

Pranayama Yoga Benefits:

Pranayama begins with regulation of breath and ends in establishing full and perfect control over life currents or the inner vital force. The following Pranayama yoga benefits are as under

  • Through pranayama we can consciously regulate the uniformity of our breath and establish a balance between positive and negative current.
  • Exhalation is the positive state during which energy absorbed is distributed to all parts of the body and with inhalation we are negative , receptive state.
  • The main aim of Pranayama is to excercises all parts of inner part of body. It revitalize all internal organs and in course of time, reach a state of development enabling us to produce currents or life force consciously with a simple command to the mind.
  • Prana is absorbed from the atmosphere through the process of breathing. By regular practice it is possible to absorb more Prana than is ordinary breathing.
  • When Parana is controlled by Pranayama, the mind is automatically controlled. When the mind is controlled through meditation, Prana is also controlled.
  • There is an intimate connection between mind, Prana and semen. If the seminal energy is controlled by continence, the mind and Prana are spontaneously controlled.
  • Gets sound sleep as soon as he retires to bed.
  • Four to five hours sleep is sufficient one who daily practice Pranayama.

The mind plays a predominant role in pranayama. It should not be done mechanically. To drive maximum benefit, it is necessary to consciously absorb everything that takes place via the phenomenon of breathing. Therefore , it is essential to establish rhythm in breathing. After the rhythm is fully established , the practitioner should imagine that with each inhalation he is drawing in an increased supply of Prana from the universal supply, which will be taken up nervous system and stored in the solar plexus abd with each exhalation Prana is distributed to all parts of body.

Pranayams keeps the flow pf pranic currents in perfect working condition at the proper voltages required by different parts of the body. Just as electricity can be used for different purposes. Pranic currents also perform a variety of functions in different parts of the body most efficiently , when the body is in perfect condition. Any disturbance in the proper flow of this pranic current results in disease of one kind or another depending upon the nature of such disturbance. A regular practioner of Pranayama, therefore would never suffer from any disease throughout his life. He will always be energetic and enthusiastic.

It is scientifically proved that practice of Pranayama cures many of diseases. The deficiency of red carpsuscles in the blood can be corrected and an abnormal increase in eosinophils can be reduced. Even after few months of practice, patches in the lungs disappear, a sluggish liver and bowl can be reactivated, the vitality index rises and hormonal as well as glandular imbalance rectified.

How to do practice Pranayama?

Time–  An empty stomach is mandatory. The best time for practice Pranayama yoga is before breakfast. If practiced in the evening, keep a gap between lunch approx 5 hours. Before sunrise and after sunset is the ideal time.

PlaceThe ideal place for Pranayama is bank of the river or the beach. The room where Pranayam is practiced should be well ventilated but free from any sudden dust, foul smell, and smoke.

PostureThis is best done in meditative posture. Preferably Padmasan or Vajra asana is the best way to do pranayama. Padmasana is may be difficult for beginners so in starting Vajra asana is best for begin.

SequenceAny one of Yoga should necessarily practice meditation. This may be done very early in the morning after waking up and finishing the morning rituals. After the gap of half or an hour, the asanas may be practiced. Immediately after completing the asanas, Pranayama may be done. This sequence is meant for those who devote much time for meditation.

During Pranayama and meditation, the nerves are soothed. Hence Asanas should not be attempted immediately after pranayama and meditation.

Pranayama Yoga Practice Steps -:

Pranayama should be done in such a way that rhythm is to establish a new rhythm automatically. Maintaining this rhythm throughout is a prerequisite. When inner retention (holding breath after breathing in) is maintained for a longer duration than it can be comfortably held, the practitioner may have to hurriedly exhale and, thereby the rhythm may be disturbed. The loss of rhythm would defeat the very purpose of Pranayama.

During retention the muscles of the face should not be twisted. This is an indication that one is going beyond his capacity to retain breath.

For measuring the time of inhalation and exhalation one may mentally count numbers. The ticking sound of an alarm clock would also help the practitioner keep perfect time. If a person wants to be very accurate, he may use a metronome. Observing the ime is necessary only in the beginning. After a year or so, there is no need to observe the time , as the whole process will become automatic through force of habit.

Pranayama yoga should be practiced for at least 15 minutes daily without missing a single day. Only then will the benefits be derived fully. The practice may be stopped only during serious illness. In case a practitioner falls sick, he should not attribute his illness to the practice of Pranayama. Pranayama will never bring ill health but only foster good health and vitality.

A person should not experience tiredness during Pranayama. If he does so, it indicates some wrong practice. In this case, one should seek the help of an expert. There should always be a feeling of joy and exhilaration, not tiredness. During Pranayama eyes are clsed to facilitatae concentration.

Secretions of salvia in the mouth should be swallowed before exhaling a breath and not during retention.

Cultivating the habit of performing a few simple asanas and pranayama daily after getting up from bed will drive away drowsiness in a person and enable him to start the day enthusiastically.

It is necessary to practice Shava Asana after the completion of one round of each item of Pranayama. This refreshes ones’ body and mind.

Precautions during Pranayama-:

  1. The advanced stage in practice of pranayama envisages the gradual introduction of certain bandhas (interlocking techniques), Mudras. These should be practiced only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.
  2. Children below 12 should not perform Pranayama. However, they may be encouraged to breathe in and out slowly and rhythmically.
  3. When retention of breath is introduced it may cause constipation. This is just a temporary phenomenon. Those suffering from eyes and ear trouble should not attempt retention of breath.
  4. People addicted to smoking or drinking should not attempt advanced Pranayama. However, they may start with mild practices and may later give up such habits voluntarily.
  5. The rate of respiration is quicker in women than in men. Hence women should consciously practice Pranayama in a slow, rhythmic manner.

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