Yoga breathing exercises are commonly referred to as pranayama techniques. Pranayama, the discipline of breath control, is the fourth of the Eight Limbs of Pantanjali’s Yoga and is used to control prana (life energy) – also known as vital life force. Although there are many types of pranayama, the ultimate goal of all of these techniques is to improve the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional state of one’s health. While breathing is an automatic process, it can be regulated to make a positive impact on health.
Three Classic Types of Yoga Breathing Exercises for Beginners
• Anuloma Viloma, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, is done by inhaling through one nostril, holding the breath, and then releasing it through the other nostril. This method balances the right and left sides of the brain, improving both logical thinking and creativity.
Some Yogis claim that this is the most effective technique for calming the mind and the nervous system. Modern science has confirmed that the electrical activity of the brain is more active on the opposite side from the congested nostril.
• Kapalabhati, or Skull Shining Breath, considered a type of pranayama, and is also a cleansing technique (kriya), which helps to relieve blockages in the air ways of the nasal passages and chest. Derived from two words meaning “skull” and “light,” this practice uses deep abdominal breathing to purify the lungs, remove toxins from the blood and lymph, and improve digestion. It also prepares the body for meditation and increases alertness. However, it should be practiced in moderation because it may cause one to be light-headed and is not recommended in the case of high blood pressure.
• Bhramari, the Sanskrit word for “bumble bee,” is a breath technique that creates a humming sound during exhalations. The fingers and thumbs are used to shut off sight and outside sounds, which helps one focus on the internal sound that resembles a bumble bee. Its vibratory nature calms the body and lengthens the breath, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress and fatigue. The technique can be practiced by anyone, including pregnant women, children, and the elderly. While doing the exercise, the mind is focused on the unity of the individual consciousness with the divine, and the technique is beneficial to meditation and deep sleep.
All Yogic breathing techniques require practice, and the desired effect is to establish the connection between mind and body. Physical results can be seen in the relief of respiratory illnesses, a reduction in anxiety, detoxification of the immune system, and a general feeling of relaxation and well being.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, has written many books on the subject of Yoga. He is a co-owner and the Director of Yoga Teacher Training at: Aura Wellness Center, in Attleboro, MA. He has been a certified Master Yoga Teacher since 1995. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit: http://www.yoga-teacher-training.org/