"Inhale and God approaches you, Hold the inhalation and God remains with you, Exhale and you approach God, Hold the exhalation and surrender to God"
According to Yoga, we are meant to live a full 120 years. Since we take 21,600 breaths every day, the total number of breath in our lifetime will be 946,080,000 breaths. This may seem like a lot, but we also know that life goes by very quickly. Therefore it makes sense to want our every breath count, and Yoga makes this possible.
Breathing Exercise (Pranayama)
The Four Stages of Breathing
Breathing is life. It is one of the most important vital functions. Breathing exercise or pranayama is one the five principles of yoga. Different beginner of advanced breathing techniques are used to practice and develop your breathing exercise session. We wish you good luck following these breathing (pranayama) techniques and enjoy a healthier and purer life.
Each cycle of breathing, usually thought of as merely a single inhaling followed by a single exhaling, may be analyzed into four phases or stages, each with its distinct nature and its traditional Sanskrit name. The transitions from inhaling to exhaling and from exhaling to inhaling involve at least reversals in direction of the movements of muscles and of expansive or contractive movements of lungs, thorax and abdomen. The time necessary for such reversals can be very short, as may be observed if one deliberately pants as shortly and rapidly as he can. Yet they can be long, as one may notice if he intentionally stops breathing when he has finished inbreathing or out breathing. The effects of these pause specially when they become lengthened, at first deliberately and then spontaneously-seem remarkable. Thus in our analysis of the four stages of breathing we shall pay special attention to these pauses, how to lengthen them and how to profit from them.
The Four Stages of Breathing
1. Puraka (Inhalation) A single inhalation is termed puraka. It is a process of drawing in air; it is expected to be smooth and continuous. If a person should pause one or more times during the process of a single inhaling, the process might be spoken of as a broken puraka rather than as a series of purakas.
2. Abhyantara Kumbhaka (Pause After Inhaling) Full Pause
Kumbhaka consists of deliberate stoppage of flow of air and retention of the air in the lungs, without any movement of lungs or muscles or any part of the body and without any incipient movements. A beginner may experiment by using some force to keep such pause motionless. Quite elaborate instructions and techniques have been worked out for this purpose.
3. Rechaka (Exhalation)
The third stage, exhalation, is called rechaka. Like inhalation, it too should be smooth and continuous, though often the speed of exhaling is different from that of inhaling. Normally, muscular energy is used for inhaling whereas exhaling consists merely in relaxing the tensed muscles. Such relaxing forces air from the lungs as they return to an untensed condition. However, a person can force air out with muscular effort; so when he sits or stands erect and has his abdominal muscles under constant control, muscular effort may be used for both inhaling and exhaling. Especially if one deliberately smooths the course of his breathing and holds the cycles in regular or definitely irregular patterns, he is likely to use muscular energy at each stage, including the pauses. However, in a condition of complete relaxation, one should expect effort to be needed only for inhaling.
4. Bahya Kumbhaka (Pause After Exhaling) Empty Pause
The fourth stage, the pause after exhaling, is also called kumbhaka, especially when the stoppage is deliberate or prolonged. The fourth stage, the empty pause, completes the cycle, which terminates as the pause ends and a new inhalation begins.
Exhalation (Bahya Vrtti) - Breathing Exercise and Techniques
The object of pranayama practice is to emphasize the inhalation, the exhalation, or retention of the breath. Emphasis on the inhalation is called puraka pranayama. Recaka pranayama refers to a form of pranayama in which the exhalation is lengthened while the inhalation remains free. Kumbhaka pranayama focuses on breath retention. In kumbhaka pranayama we hold the breath after inhalation, after exhalation, or after both.
Exhalation (bahya vrtti)
Whichever technique is chosen, the most important part of pranayama is the exhalation. If the quality of the exhalation is not good, the quality of the whole pranayama practice is adversely affected. If you are not able to breathe out slowly and quietly, you are not ready for pranayama, either mentally or otherwise. "If the inhalation is rough we do not have to worry, but if the exhalation is uneven it is a sign of illness, either present or impending."
Yoga's essential aim is to eliminate impurities and reduce avidya. Through this elimination alone, positive results come about. When the blockage is cleared from a sewer pipe, the water will flow. If something in us is preventing a change from occurring, then we need to remove the obstacle before the change can take place. The exhalation is vitally important because it transports impurities from the body, making more room for prana to enter.
Often when pranayama is discussed it is the holding of the breath that is emphasized. Yet the ancient texts talk about the total breath, not simply kumbhaka, breath retention. The Yoga Sutra discusses the breath in this order of importance:
1. Bahya vrtti or exhalation as the most important,
2. Abhyantara vrtti or inhalation as secondary,
3. Stambha vrtti or breath retention.
Bhastrika consists primarily in forced rapid deep breathing, which serves as a basis for many varieties of exercises, all of which may be described by the same name. Although air is forced both in and out, emphasis is placed upon expulsion or explosion of air. A series of such explosions, each following the other in quick succession without pause, either full or empty, may be called "a round." Beginners should limit a round to about five explosions, though the number may be increased to ten, or to any number needed to obtain the desired effect. The desired effects range from increased ventilation, increased blood circulation, increased clearing of nasal passages and increased thinking capacity to overwhelming pacification of all mental disturbances. Please be warned against generating such powerful explosions that the lung tissues will be injured and against extending a series so long as to become dizzy. Comfort, not reckless excess, should guide your motives and manner in doing this exercise.
Although you can breath through your mouth or both mouth and nose, traditionally breathing is limited to either both nostrils or one nostril. The breath-stroke in the rapid succession of breaths may or may not be very deep, but it is customary to finish or follow a round by the deepest possible inhalation and exhalation. A series of normal breaths should occur before undertaking a second round. A deepest possible inhalation and exhalation may, and perhaps should, introduce each round. Some nasal hissing can be expected; avoid unpleasant sound and fluttering of nasal skin surfaces. Although you can stand if you wish, proper performance of this technique is done in a seated position allowing maximum relaxation of abdominal muscles and easy diaphragmatic breathing. Variations include using a full pause after each round, partial glottis closures and alternation of nostrils.
You should exercise caution against the temptation to go to excess in initial bellows experiments. If you have a tendency to push the limit, lie down when doing this exercise if there is any danger of losing Consciousness and falling to the floor. Forced breathing produce relaxation and revitalization. Excess may induce dizziness, drowsiness and diminution of consciousness. No harm can come from hyperventilation so long as you are in bed. If you happen to lose consciousness your breathing pattern tend to rectify itself and return to normalcy. Excessive ventilation results in lightheartedness, giddiness or a feeling of floating in the air.
Bhramari (Nasal snoring)
Bhramari differs from the usual mouth snoring in that the lips are closed and vibrations of the soft palate are caused entirely by nasal airflow. Practice mouth snoring first in order to develop some voluntary control over the palate vibration process. Nasal snoring is more difficult. Approach control attempts gradually. The soft palate must be lifted toward the top of the pharynx sufficiently to produced flutter, which may be very hard to control. The sound produced is commonly described as being like the buzzing of a bee. Although, in bhramari, one breathes both in and out through both nostrils and produces a snoring, buzzing or humming sound in both directions, expect somewhat different sounds from inhaling, which has a higher pitch, than from exhaling, which has a lower pitch. Bhramari is customarily described as involving rapid inhalation producing a high humming sound like that of a male bee and slow exhalation producing a low humming sound like that of a female bee.
Sitali (Tongue hissing)
Sitali refers to the sound caused when air is drawn in through the protruding tongue folded into a tube. During inhalation, curl up both edges of the tongue so that it forms a kind of tube. Breathe in through this tube. During inhalation the air passes over the moist tongue, cooling down and refreshing the throat. In order to be sure that the tongue remains moist, roll it back as far as possible against the palate. Do this during the entire exhalation so that the next breath is just as refreshing as the first. The resulting tongue position may appear more like the lower portion of a bird's beak than a tube, but variable opening or closing of the tube-like passage in the folded tongue, in cooperation with faster or slower inhalation, makes possible variations in loudness and softness and smoothness of the reversed hissing sound. Again, a cooling effect may be noted and, indeed, sought through this and the foregoing technique whenever needed. The tongue is drawn back into the mouth an d the lips are closed at the end of inhalation. We can breathe out either through the throat or alternately through the nostrils.
Sitkari (Teeth hissing)
Sitkari pertains to the sound made by drawing air in through the front teeth-either tightly closed or slightly opened-with the tongue tip regulating the air pressure and sound. This technique pertains only to inhaling, except that exhaling normally takes place through both nostrils, after a usual full pause. The sides of the tongue is pressed against the teeth, lining the sides of the mouth, if they are closed tightly, or expanding between the upper and lower; sets, if the jaw is opened slightly. The sound, a kind of reversed hissing, like that made when one suddenly touches ice or a hot object or feels a draft of hot or frigid air, should be regulated so as to be smooth and to sound pleasant. The experience has been described as "sipping air." This technique usually cools the mouth and may have both a cooling and a relaxing effect upon the whole body. Lips should close at the end of inhalation, preparatory to holding the full pause with chin lock. Closure of the lips ends the hissing sound, si, with a "sip"
The Cleansing Breath
The Cleansing Breath, as its name indicates, cleans and ventilates the lungs; it also tones up the entire system. You should do the Cleansing Breath at the end of other yoga exercises or just before the final relaxation exercises.
To do the Cleansing Breath, stand straight with feet close together and arms hanging loosely at the sides. Take a deep breath, hold it for a little while, and then purse your lips as if you were going to whistle. Now start exhaling forcefully, little by little, but do not blow the air out as if you were blowing out a candle, and do not puff out the cheeks. They should be hollowed.
These successive and forceful exhalations will feel almost like slight coughs, which expel the air until the lungs are completely empty. The effort of the exhalation should be felt in the chest and in the back.
Rest for a little while, and then repeat. After a week you may repeat this routine several times a day.
The Walking Breathing Exercise
Walking Breathing exercise is done in exactly the same way as Rhythmic Breathing except that you do it while walking. Use each step as a count, as the pulse beat used in Rhythmic Breathing.
Stand erect, exhale first, then start walking, right foot first. Take four steps while inhaling, hold the breath in for two steps, exhale for four steps, and hold the breath out for two steps. Without stopping, continue the routine: inhale on four steps, hold the breath in for two steps, and so forth. Do not interrupt the walking-keep it rhythmical. The breathing should be done in one continuous flow: do not inhale in four short breaths, a mistake which many beginners tend to make. Inhale one deep breath to the count of four, hold it to the count of two, exhale it to the count of four, and again hold the emptiness to the count of two. This completes one round. Make five such rounds a day the first week-no more-adding one round per week.
If you feel that four steps are too long for you, count three steps and hold one. If, on the contrary, four are not enough and you feel you want to continue the inhalation, take six steps or even eight, and hold the breath on a count of three or four steps respectively. In either case, you should take an even number of steps while breathing in and out, as the retention is done in half the time taken for inhalation or exhalation.
You can do the Walking Breathing exercise at any other time while you are exercising, walking, especially when the air is clean in a park, a forest, or at the seashore. You can do it while walking to your car or bus, descending a staircase, on your way to pick up your mail from the letter box, during a coffee break in your office, in fact, whenever you think of it. Simply interrupt your usual walking tempo, stop to inhale and exhale deeply. Then start rhythmic breathing to the count of slow and even steps.
Samanu (Purifying the Nadis)
Breathing Exercise (Pranayama)
Samanu is an advanced practice for purifying the nadis that combines pranayama with chakra visualization and japa on the bija mantras of air, fire, moon and earth.
Samanu (Purifying the Nadis)
1. Focusing on Anahata Chakra, mentally repeat "Yam" eight times while you inhale through the left nostril, thirty-two times while you retain, and sixteen times while you exhale through the right nostril.
2. Focusing on Manipura Chakra mentally repeat "Ram" using the same ratio but inhaling through the right and exhaling through the left nostril.
3. Proceed as in 1, but focus on the moon center at the tip of the nose and mentally repeat "Tam". While you hold the breath, imagine the nectar of the moon suffusing the entire body. Exhale slowly, focusing on Muladhara Chakra and repeating, "Lam".
This exercise is recommended only for those already well advanced in the use of other breathing techniques. Its maximum benefit comes from repeated practice under controlled conditions wherein the practitioner knows what to expect. It involves a prolonged full pause held with a chin lock, until you experience the approach of fainting. Beginners may, indeed, faint. But experts remain seated upright, normally in the Lotus Posture, and attain a restful, pleasant suspension of consciousness. One breathes through both nostrils and may require several rounds and full pauses to attain his goal. If the approaching fainting appears to be leading to a collapse of posture, one may resist it until he regains physical self-control. When successful, one enjoys a prolonged, relaxed, euphorious, semiconscious swoon.
Arrested and Resting Breath -Breathing Exercises (Pranayama)
Since the two pauses during breathing have great significance in yoga, we will examine the problems with and the significance of arresting breathing a little bit further.
Arrested or Resting Breath
A pause may be very short, even only a fraction of a second (e.g., quick puffs) or it may be very long. As an illustration, try holding your lungs full of air and see how long you can do so. You will find that you can retain it for several seconds and even, perhaps, for minutes. If you happen to be fatigued and if your body needs constant replenishment of oxygen, you may be unable to hold your breath very long. But when you have become rested and relaxed and when your body is already well supplied with oxygen, you may hold your breath much longer. Practitioners of yoga extend the duration of a full pause by first breathing regularly for some time until the body becomes oversupplied with oxygen and then taking an extended pause without discomfort. When you try this, please remember to quit the practice when you fell the discomfort.
Advanced practitioners of yoga are said to be able to stop breathing for an hour or more without discomfort. Some of them eventually can remain almost completely motionless for days, even having themselves buried for such periods in order to demonstrate ability to survive without food, water or very much air. When buried, they do not stop breathing entirely, but their inhalations and exhalations become so long and slow and their pauses so prolonged that almost no energy is consumed and very little oxygen is needed. Even their heartbeats become so retarded that only a minimum of oxygen is needed by the heart muscles.
Their cerebral activity almost ceases, so very little energy is needed to support the voracious capacity of the nervous system.
There are some significant ways of attaining relatively complete relaxation by use of these pauses between breathing. One cannot retain his breathing for an extended duration as long as he is nervous, anxious or fatigued. So, in pursuit of extended pauses, he will have to do what is required to attain a state of rest. When you have attained full state of rest, it will result in the reduction or elimination of nervousness. It is an extremely powerful technique to incite relaxation response.
Pranayama - Breathing Exercises
Prana - Life force, inner breath
Ayama - To remove restrictions, restraint or control
Pranayama - Is the removal of the control or restrictions on the inner breath (prana) through breathing exercises.
5 Primary Pranas
Udana - Head.
Prana - Throat to the bottom of the heart.
Samana - Throat to just below the navel.
Apana - Below the navel to the penneum.
Vyana - Whole body.
Prana vayu (breath) - activated by inhale
Apana vayu (breath) - activated by exhale
Full, healthy, free, relaxed and uninhibited
Begin with the act of listening, feeling and the heighten awareness of the breath. It is our lifeline. It knows the past, present and the future.
Inhalation - The depth, ease and comfort of our inhalation reflects our openness and ability to embrace life itself.
Exhalation - The freedom of our exhalation reflects our ability to let go with ease and understanding and to move on.
Lie on your back with the knees bent
Observe the breath as with out trying to "fix"
Origin - where does the movement begin?
Location - where is the movement most noticeable? Where does the breath not move freely?
Texture of the breath - smooth, steady, shallow or irregular?
"The Primer Mover" for breath
Feels deep, relaxed and satisfying; softens the eyes and reduces tension
Huge, dome shaped muscle, next to the rib cage
Heart sits just above it
Digestive organs sit just below it
Full Yogic Breath
Lower Belly - from the pelvic floor to the lowest ribs (12th rib)
Mid-Chest - from the lowest ribs to the base of the breast bone or line of the nipples
Toy Chest - from the base of the breast bone to the top of the manubrium (top of breast bone where the collarbones attach)
Puraka - Inhaling
Kumbhaka - 'Empty pot' Atman
Retention of the breath - natural 'gap' between the breaths
Suspension of the breath in which prana becomes still
Rechaka - Exhaling
Retention of breath
Naturally occurs in space between the breaths
Top of inhalation - body absorbs energy of breath
Bottom of exhalation - experience of emptiness and silence
Suspension of breath where prana becomes still
Enter state of natural meditation
Kumbhaka - the stilling of the prana
Highest experience and ultimate goal of pranayama
Ujjayi - Foundation of pranayama
2 distinct characteristics
The Ujjayi 'sound'
A resonant sound is made in the back of the throat by toning the epiglottis
The effort is to maintain evenness of flow of the breath from beginning to end - both on the inhalation and exhalation
Kapalabhati - Shining Skull
Powerful cleansing, clearing and energizing technique
Excellent preparation for meditation
Tonic for clearing your mind and lifting your spirits
Invigorates liver, spleen, pancreas, abdominal muscles and improves digestion
Used to arouse Kundalini energy (Shakti)
Surya Bhedana - Passing thru the Sun
Inhale through the right nostril (pingala nadi - sun) and exhale through the left (ida nadi - moon).
This is a heating pranayama
Therapeutic for low blood pressure
Chandra Bhedana - Passing thru the Moon
Inhale through the left nostril (ida nadi -moon) and exhale through the right nostril (pingala nadi - sun).
This is a cooling pranayama
Therapeutic for high blood pressure
Nadi Sodhana - Purification of the Nerves
Combines Surya Bhedana & Chandra Bhedana to bring balance between the two energies
Inhalation and exhalation passes through each nostril in turn - thus balancing both hemispheres of the brain.
'Against the grain' or 'hairs (loma) interrupted breath
Powerful technique for stilling the mind
Utilizes Full Yogic Breathing and Kumbhaka (retention of breath) at each interval of breath.
Can be done with pauses during process of inhalation or during exhalation.
Viloma Pranayama - Practice
Breathe into the belly for count of 4
Pause for a count of 2
Breathe into mid-chest for count of 4
Pause for a count of 2
Breathe into top chest for count of 4
Pause for a count of 2
Then release breath in one long, smooth, quiet exhalation.