One of the primary breathing exercises of Pranayama is the practice of Yoga breathing. Also known as Yogic breathing, it helps us better understand the process of breathing as a combination of thoracic and diaphragmatic breathing. While this method forms as a foundation to advanced level of Pranayama, it offers important benefits and enlightens us on what we can achieve through Pranayama.
Pranayama or Yoga breathing is a vital part of Yoga . Derived from two words ‘Prana’ (life force) and ‘Ayama’ (control), it is broadly defined as the control on the flow of the life force.
Components of Pranayama Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises for Pranayama are consists of three parts – inhalation, retention and exhalation. During inhalation, the system is stimulated where the lungs are filled with fresh air. The stage of retention elevates the internal temperature and absorption of oxygen. During exhalation, the diaphragm returns to its previous position and the toxin-filled air is forced out through the contraction of the intercostal muscles.
These are the major components that form the basis of Yoga breathing, which massage the muscles and vital organs of the abdomen. When there is proper function of these organs, there will be healthy flow of vital energy into the different parts of the system. Pranayama is only successful when there is balance between inhalation, retention and exhalation.
Types of Pranayama Breathing Exercises
Also known as Anuloma viloma, the Alternate Nostril Breathing is a breathing technique that promotes detoxification and oxygenation. It equalizes, balances and restores the flow of life energy (Prana) through the body. Alternate nostril breathing can be done in six easy steps.
How to Perform Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
1. With your right hand, press your right nostril with your thumb and your left nostril with your ring finger. Place your index finger on your forehead or third eye.
2. Next, breathe in on your left nostril, while closing the right with thumb and count from 1 to 4.
3. Hold your breath while still closing both nostrils and count to sixteen.
4. Breathe out on your right nostril while closing the left nostril to the count of eight.
5. Breath in on your right nostril, while closing the left nostril, to the count of four.
6. Hold your breath and count from 1 to 16, while keeping both nostrils closed.
Begin practicing these steps for three rounds and gradually build up to 10 rounds.
Bellows Breathing Technique
Bellows breathing technique is a traditional Yogic breathing exercise. This breathing technique brings focus to the body and as such, supports consciousness of life force energy or Prana. When done a few times a day, it can help enhance your digestive fire and clear both body and mind when feeling tired or sluggish.
To do this, sit down and breathe only through the nose. Practice slow, deep breaths and visualize air coming in and out on all five lobes of the lungs. A lot of people are used to breathing only through the upper part of the lungs, which is a shallower type of breathing. If you practice Bellows breath, you are utilizing the full potential of the lungs and make the most of the calm receptors present in the lower lungs.