Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Pranayama


The Sanskrit word “Pranayama” is composed of two words “prana” which means breath or vital life force and “yama” which means regulation.


Many practitioners believe that in our body there is a constant flow energy, called “prana” in Hindu as well as Buddhist philosophy. Prana flow through channels in your body called “nadis” and energy centers called “chakras”. Pranayama is a process by which these nadis can be purified and energy flow can become efficient resulting in greater well being and heightened consciousness.


While can choose to believe this theory of prana and chakras or disbelieve it, nobody can deny the scientifically proven benefits of Pranayama practices. Let me list out just a few of them:

  1. It strengthens the lungs and can be used to treat various lung diseases like asthma, allergic bronchitis, occupational diseases and recoveries after pneumonia and tuberculosis.

  2. It has proved to improve digestive system and relief patients of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which have become very common nowadays.

  3. It is good for nasal passages and sinuses.

  4. A study has shown that three months of regular Pranayama practice result in decreased blood pressure and heart rate compared to medication alone.

  5. Improves concentration, reduce sleep deprivation and relieves stress.

As you can see the ancients were convinced of the effectiveness of Pranayama for good reasons. Now that we have discussed the “Why”, lets delve into the “How”.


The first step before performing any Pranayama is to sit in comfortable pose preferably siddhasana, sukhasana or padmasana. If you have no idea what I just said, don’t worry we’ll post a guide to sitting yoga posture soon on this blog. If you can’t sit on any of the poses I mentioned, you can sit on a chair with your back straight while performing Pranayama.


The following is the list three Pranayamas well suited for beginners and the most effective.


ANULOM VILOM

The word Anulom means 'with the grain', and Vilom, 'against the grain '. It follows that this is an exercise which involves breathing through the opposite nostrils, one nostril at a time.


Step 1: Sit in a comfortable posture and close your eyes.

Step 2: Block your right nostril with your thumb and inhale.

Step 3: Open your right nostril, block your left nostril with your index finger and exhale.

Step 4: Inhale, release your left nostril while blocking your right nostril with your thumb and exhale.

Step 5: Repeat.


Do this for at least five minutes everyday.


BENEFITS OF ANLOM VILOM:

  • Helps in relieving headaches.

  • Excellent for asthma and allergies.

  • Builds stamina in the blood.

  • Reduces stress and anxiety.


BRAHMRI

Brahmri also known as “Bee breathe” uses the combination of sound and breathe to calm the mind.


Step 1: Sit in a comfortable posture and close your eyes.

Step 2: Cover your ears with your thumbs while covering your eyes with the rest of the four fingers.

Step 3: Inhale completely.

Step 4: Exhale, making a buzzing sound with your mouth closed.


BENEFITS OF BRAHMRI:

  • Reduces stress, anxiety and frustration.

  • Reduces blood pressure.

  • Provides a good sonorous voice.

  • Helps in removing throat ailments.


KAPALBHATI

Kapalbhati is a technique which strengthens the lungs and increases it’s capacity. The steps are as follows:


Step 1: Sit in any conventional, straight-back posture.

Step 2: Expel all of the air in the lungs and pull in stomach.

Step 3: Rapidly breathe in and out from both nostrils.


BENEFITS OF KAPALBHATI:

  • Weight loss, reducing abdominal fat and increasing abdominal strength.

  • Provide relief from constipation if done regularly.

  • Improves immune system and ability to fight disease-cause microbes.

  • Improves memory and can help you concentrate better.

  • Prevent and even cure acne.

  • prevents hair loss by increasing the blood flow to the scalp and making hair roots stronger.


As you start practicing these pranayama practices in your daily yoga routine you’ll see the benefits fast. As we have discussed in our introductory article about Yoga, “pranayama” is just one of the steps in the eight steps of Ashtanga Yoga along with Asanas which we will also learn about in future blog-posts.