1. Unlock The Benefits Of Different Types Of Pranayamas
2. Dirga Pranayama Calms The Mind And Body
3. Ujjayi Pranayama Builds Endurance
4. Kapalabhati Pranayama Aids In Digestion
5. Sheetali Pranayama Has A Cooling Effect
6. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Is A Stress-Buster
7. Kumbhaka Pranayama Increases Lung Capacity
8. Bhramari Pranayama Helps In Inducing Sleep
9. Pranayama: FAQs
Unlock The Benefits Of Different Types Of Pranayamas
Trying to find ways to lead a healthy lifestyle and imbibe habits that will make you fitter? Pranayamas are a fun way to add variety to your exercise routine and delve into meditation and yoga.
Breathing is the foundation of human existence, and pranayama, an ancient Indian yoga discipline, has breathing at its core. It consists of a set of breathing techniques that train you to intentionally regulate your breathing. The different types of pranayamas range from simple to the more complicated ones that yoga enthusiasts will enjoy.
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Admittedly, the world of pranayamas is vast and, sometimes, it can be intimidating for beginners to make sense of it. Pranayama comes in myriad forms: there are many types of pranayamas, but only a handful is well known, like kapalabhati and Nadi shodhana. Most types of pranayamas have their own set of healing benefits and target different parts of the body.
Before trying out the many types of pranayamas to find what works best for you, it is always prudent to talk to a yoga practitioner.
Here are a few types of pranayamas to get you started on your journey to being healthier.
Dirga Pranayama Calms The Mind And Body
Dirga Pranayama, or Three Part Breath, is a great introduction to the vast world of pranayama. Ease into practising pranayamas with a three-part breath that is a simple breathing exercise often performed at the beginning of yoga sessions to relax your mind and body, along with helping you to get rid of distractions and to concentrate. It calms your mind, soothes your nervous system and makes you more aware of your breathing pattern and lung capacity.
Dirga Pranayama involves a deep, conscious expansion and retraction of your upper body - first the belly, then the ribcage, and, finally, your upper chest.
TIP: Dirga pranayama is known to promote lung function and reduce stress and anxiety due to its conscious breathing technique.
Ujjayi Pranayama Builds Endurance
Also called ‘Ocean’s Breath’ because of its rhythmic nature, Ujjayi Pranayama mimics the sound of ocean waves. It is highly beneficial in restoring focus, and boosts oxygen consumption; it is also linked to lowered blood pressure. Ujjayi Pranayama is about letting the process guide you instead of overthinking and helps you breathe deeper, fuller and longer.
Inhale deeply through your mouth, restrict the back of your throat as if you were trying to fog up a mirror and then close your mouth. Breathe through your nose, keeping your throat constricted.
TIP: From an Ayurvedic standpoint, Ujjayi Pranayama stimulates various key functions like memory, speech and immunity.
Kapalabhati Pranayama Aids In Digestion
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Warm up your body with a few rounds of invigorating Kapalabhati Pranayama before your next yoga session. It is also called ‘Skull Shining Breath’ or ‘Breath of Fire’, with ‘kapala’ meaning forehead and ‘Bhati’ meaning to shine. Diligent practice of the pranayama purportedly makes your skin glow naturally. Kapalabhati pranayama is known to strengthen abdominal muscles and clear your mind and is also linked with weight loss and better digestion.
The technique involves a simple, natural inhalation and then forceful exhalation. Since this is one of the more complicated pranayamas, it’s ideal to perform it under supervision; on the upside, it is quite common so your yoga instructor will be able to guide you.
TIP: Start with only a few minutes and, if at any moment, you feel lightheaded or dizzy, immediately stop.
Sheetali Pranayama Has A Cooling Effect
Opposite on the pranayama spectrum from Kapalabhati Pranayama is Sheetali Pranayama or ‘Cooling Breath’. The pranayama has a distinctive cooling and refreshing effect on your body and is instrumental in bringing down anxiety levels as well. It is characterised by the unique rolling of the tongue in an O shape and inhalation through the mouth.
TIP: This pranayama is best done during the summer months to enjoy its cooling effect. For the same reason, avoid Sheetali Pranayama during winter or if suffering from asthma, cold and cough.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Is A Stress-Buster
The most widely-known and recognised pranayama from the list, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the technique of straightforward breathing, holding the breath and then exhaling alternatively through the nostrils, because of which it is also called ‘Alternate Nostril Breathing’. It is notably helpful in easing anxiety and stress, along with bringing balance to our three doshas - mind, body, and soul. Often confused with Anulom Vilom Pranayama, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama differs from the former as there is no holding of breath in Anulom Vilom, just normal breathing through alternate nostrils.
Use your right thumb to close your right nostril, inhale deeply through your left, and hold the breath as long as possible (don’t be too forceful), close your left nostril and proceed to exhale deeply through your right nostril. One pranayama cycle consists of this process on both sides.
TIP: Keep your eyes closed throughout the practice and try to take natural and long breaths that are not forced.
Kumbhaka Pranayama Increases Lung Capacity
Kumbhaka Pranayama or ‘Full Breath Retention’ is a type of pranayama that strengthens lung capacity. It involves taking a deep breath and holding it in for as long as possible without straining, before slowly exhaling. It is also known to strengthen the diaphragm and is linked to a healthier, cleaner respiratory system. Deep breathing also ensures more oxygen supply and better absorption.
The most common form of Kumbhaka Pranayama follows the ratio of 1:1:2 where you hold in your breath for as long as you inhale, then take double the time to exhale.
TIP: Kumbhaka Pranayama is the perfect practice to engage in before meditation as it settles the mind and body, preparing them for effective meditation.
Bhramari Pranayama Helps In Inducing Sleep
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One of the most soothing pranayamas of all, Bhramari Pranayama gets its name from the Black Indian Bee, the Bhramari. When we exhale in this pranayama, we make the same sound as a humming bee. The ideal pranayama to let go of any negative emotions, the vibrations and its echoing sound also help us sleep better if done at nighttime.
Similar to the repetitive chanting of ‘om’, to practise Bhramari Pranayama, sit comfortably, cover your ears with your thumb and gently rest the fingers on your forehead or your eyes. Then, inhale deeply through your nose and while exhaling, try making a steady, low-pitched hum at the back of your throat. Repeat 10 times to feel its true effect, and gain its maximum benefit.
TIP: Bhramari Pranayama is a great way to relieve anger and is linked to increased concentration and improved memory.
Q. What Is The Best Time For Doing Pranayama?
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A. In order to get the most out of your pranayama practice, start early in the morning. Before sunrise is a pleasant time to do pranayamas, as the weather is cool and fresh and the air is oxygen-rich.
Q. For How Long Should I Do Pranayama?
A. The duration for which you practise pranayamas will depend on your age, health and fitness levels. Like yoga and meditation, it is best to start slow and then build up to a degree you are comfortable with. Pranayamas like Dirga Pranayama and Nadi Shodhana Pranayama are relatively easy, and 30 minutes is a good starting time for them; for advanced pranayamas like Kapalabhati, aim for three to four minutes and increase the duration cautiously.
Q. Who Should Avoid Doing Pranayama?
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A. If you have any chronic medical condition, it’s best to consult a doctor and yoga practitioner before embarking on your pranayama journey. People with respiratory congestions and heart diseases should avoid practicing pranayama. Pranayama should ideally not be practised immediately after meals and on a full stomach, so have your meal well in advance before you plan on doing pranayama.
See also: 5 fitness apps to serve as your yoga guide
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