Types and Benefits of Pranayama

Published by LivAyur
at April 18, 2022

Pranayamas are breathing exercises and techniques that help achieve physical and mental wellness. In Sanskrit, Prana means life energy, and Yama means to control, thereby signifying the true purpose of Pranayama. 

They are one of the main components of Yoga and are considered essential for a good meditation. Each Pranayama offers specific therapeutic benefits. However, the main objective of these breathing exercises is to connect your body and mind and remove accumulated toxins.  

The technique for each Pranayama also varies. However, all of them focus on four parts of breath: inhalation (Puraka), internal retention (Antara-Kumbhaka), exhalation (Rechaka) and external retention (Bahya-Khumbaka). 

Types of Pranayama With Their Benefits

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Ujjayi Pranayama:

Also known as Ocean or Victory Breath, Ujjayi Pranayama signifies victory from bondage. It helps you breathe deeper, fuller and longer and is known to bring stability to the body and mind. 

How to Do?

To practice Ujjayi Pranayama, constrict the back of your throat slightly and take deep and long breaths instead of shallow breaths. Then, produce frictional sounds with vibrations from the back of your throat while exhaling from the mouth. Repeat this process a few times.

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama

  • Treats throat, cough and other respiratory problems
  • Boosts the functioning of the nervous system
  • Relieves stress and anger
  • Helps in meditation
  • Purifies subtle Nadis
  • Improves immunity
  • Detoxifies internal organs

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

In Sanskrit, Nadi means subtle energy channels, Shodhana means cleansing or purification, and Pranayama means breathing technique. Hence, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing is a Yogic breathing technique to cleanse and balance the two most important Nadis or energy channels, namely Ida and Pingala. These Nadis, in turn, stimulate the central channel called Sushumna Nadi and restore the balance of the two hemispheres of the brain. 

How to Do?

To practice Nadi Shodhana, close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply from your left nostril. Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then gently release your thumb. Next, close the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand and exhale slowly from your right nostril. This time, inhale deeply from the right nostril and exhale from the left one. Repeat this process a few times. 

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

  • Purifies and balances Ida and Pingala Nadi
  • Balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts nervous system
  • Enhances focus and concentration
  • Improves respiratory functions 
  • Aids in meditation

Kapalabhati Pranayama

In Sanskrit, Kapal means skull, and Bhati means light. Therefore, Kapalbhati is also often called Skull Shining Breath. This Pranayama involves exhalation through strong and fast abdominal contractions to cleanse the breathing pathways.   

How to Do?

Take a long inhale and exhale forcefully through your nostrils while pulling your stomach in towards the spine. Then, loosen your stomach so that you automatically inhale the air again. Repeat this process a few times. 

Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

  • Improves blood circulation in the body
  • Increases and stimulates the digestive fire or Agni
  • Strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles
  • Aids in losing weight
  • Reduces blood sugar levels
  • Treats respiratory disorders such as cold, cough and asthma
  • Reduces stress
  • Detoxifies the body and improves the health of internal organs 

Bhastrika Pranayama

Also known as Bellows Breath or Breath of Fire, Bhastrika Pranayama is a forceful breathing technique that helps Prana gush into your system. It focuses on both inhalation and exhalation and helps to detoxify and energise the body. 

How To Do?

Inhale deeply and then forcefully exhale the air with a nasal or hissing sound. With the same force, inhale the air again and expand your chest and abdomen region. Repeat this process a few times. 

Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama

  • Detoxifies the body
  • Provides energy to the body and mind
  • Balances all the three Doshas
  • Tones down abdominal muscles
  • Boosts the digestive system
  • Balances nervous system
  • Aids in meditation
  • Improves the health of the respiratory system

Bhramari Pranayama

Also known as Bumblebee Breath, Bhramari Pranayama is a breathing technique that uses sound and breath to calm the mind and nervous system. It is highly beneficial for students and people who do intense brainwork.

How to Do?

To practice Bhramari Pranayama, gently press your right ear cartilage with your right index finger and your left ear cartilage with your left index finger. You may also place the rest of your fingers on your forehead and eyes. Next, inhale deeply and exhale while making a steady and low-pitched humming sound from the back of your throat. Repeat this process a few times, and then gently open your eyes. 

Benefits of Bhramari Pranayama

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves concentration and brain 
  • Cures headaches and migraines
  • Improves sleep
  • Controls hypertension
  • Helps in meditation 

Takeaway

There are many types of Pranayama, some of which are listed above. The technique for each Pranayama is different and so are the benefits offered by them. However, the goal of all Pranayamas is to remove harmful toxins from your body and establish a connection between your body and mind. These breathing exercises help promote relaxation and mindfulness while also boosting your physical health. 

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