Yoga » Pranayama


The word pranayama is comprised of two roots: 'prana' plus 'ayama'. Prana means vital energy or life force. It is the force which exists in all things, whether animate or inanimate. The word ayama is defined as extension or expansion. The word pranayama means extension or expansion of the dimension of prana. B.K.S. Iyengar called pranayama the sience of the breath. The techniques of pranayama provide the method whereby the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one's normal boundaries or limitations and attain a higher state of vibratory energy and awareness. The practice of pranayama seeks to quieten the mind, bringing it under control through the deep and rhytmic flow of inhalations and exhalations.

The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain.  Respiration fuels the burning of oxygen and glucose, producing energy to power every muscular contraction, glandular secretion and mental process. The breath is intimately linked to all aspects of human experience.

Most people breathe incorrectly, using only a small part of their lung capacity. The breathing is then generally shallow, depriving the body of oxygen and prana essential to its good health. Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration stimulates and is stimulated by calm, content, states of mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical. emotional and mental blocks. Pranayama establishes regular brething patterns, breaking this negative cycle and reversing the debilitating process. It does so by giving us control of the breath and re-establishing the natural, relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.

Although breathing is mainly an unconscious process, conscious control of it may be taken at any time. Consequently, it forms a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind. 

During pranayama, concentration is drawn solely to the action of the breath, and it is this attentive awareness of the breath that leads to the art of dhyana, or meditation.

There is four aspects of pranayama:

  • Pooraka or inhalation
  • Rechaka or exhalation
  • Antar kumbhaka or internal breath retention
  • Bahir kumbhaka or external breath retention

Nadi Sodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing is a powerful breathing practice. Nadi means channel and sodhana means purification. Nadi Sodhana is primarily aimed at clearing and purifiying the subtle channels of the mind-body organism, while balancing its masculine and feminine, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

Kapalabhati (frontal brain cleansing breath) is an important part of yogic system of body cleansing techniques.  Kapal means scull and bhati means shining.

Kapalbhati involves short  and strong forceful exhalations and inhalations happens automatically.

Bhastrika (bellows breath) involves a rapid and forceful inhalation and exhaltion powered with the movement of diaphragm.

Brahmari (humming bee breath) is the action of making a light humming sound  when exhaling.