Pranayama Or Controlling The Breath
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Yoga in Daily Life

Breathing is a basic indication of life. It is a process that never stops in the life time. It is connected with other life systems like circulation and other processes of digestion, nervous system and excretion as well. Breathing mainly involves inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide. Throughout one breathing cycle various processes of oxidation and releasing energy happen which control the entire life systems in the human body.

In yoga the vital air for the system is called Prana.It is the air that is inhaled. It then gets differentiated into ten different kinds of vayus . Five of these are more important. These are Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana. Prana is the vital cord of life that runs in all living creatures and it distinguishes the living from the dead. It is also something that is unending as one form of life leads to the origination of another. Like a dead man’s ashes bring fertility to the ground so that plants flourish in it. Thus prana only changes the form but its sustainability is never challenged.

In this day and age of excessive pollution the vital air consumed by human beings has massively reduced in quality. Practicing Pranayama daily can strengthen the system enormously so that it can endure the pressures induced by artificiality.

We respire nearly fifteen times during a minute. In each breath nearly 400 cubic centimetres (0.4 litres) of air is taken in and thrown out. This air is known as tidal air. In a deep breath nearly 1.6 – 2.0 litres of air can be taken in. the lungs do not empty out completely and retain about 1.5 litres of air. So the total lung capacity can range to a maximum of 5.0 litres. Yogic breathing involves restriction of number of breaths and focuses on inhalation and exhalation of more air in a single breath. This is done with concentration on the breaths and without exertion of too much of undue pressure on the walls of the respiratory tracts. Initially this may be difficult to achieve without exertion and the system may get tired quickly, but with regular practice this can be achieved.

Pranayama is also called yogic breathing. Pranayama is best practiced in the early hours of the day when the air is relatively fresher. It is best practiced outdoors near the nature but the atmosphere should be reasonably clean and preferably serene. In big cities this may be a difficult proposition so the rooftops or open terraces are a better choice. Even public places like an open park can be chosen as a place to practice it.

There are many versions of Pranayama propagated around from time to time. But many of these are not over and above the biases of their practitioners who many-a-times started claiming themselves as originators. Here we describe the practices mentioned in the ancient texts.

Inhalation and Exhalation or Shvaas and Prashvasa: This process involves monitoring the inhalation and exhalation by restricting the number of breaths taken in a minute. This is also called silencing the breaths as the process involves exerting as little pressure on the respiratory system as possible. Care is also to be taken to use both nostrils simultaneously without creating any sounds in the whole process of inhalation and exhalation. It is seen that people in the normal course of breathing do not use both nostrils and take very short breaths. This makes them too tired too soon. Practicing this first step of Pranayama daily enhances the ability of the system to breathe more deeply and comfortably. It provides endurance to the system.

Clearing the nasal passage or Neti: For better usage of both nostrils this process is done which clears the nasal passage. In the mild form this process involves taking a cup with a spout with lukewarm water to which a pinch of salt is added. Tilting the head to one side and in a forward leaning position the water is poured into the upper portion of the nostril with the spout. The water should not be allowed to do into the throat. Then the procedure is repeated on the other side also. This clears both the nostrils. Consuming water through the nostrils is an advanced form of neti where water is ingested through nostrils. This can be done slowly after practicing for a while.

Sucking in and exhaling air or Puraka and Rechaka: Here air is filled into the system by deep sucking and holding in the system for a while. Then it is forcefully thrown out. The process is repeated vigorously for a few times.

Practicing breathing with one nostril or Anuloma - Viloma Pranayama:Before the next step is taken breathing is to be practiced by closing one nostril with the thumb of the right hand and using the other one for inhalation and exhalation. The process is to be repeated on both nostrils.

The state in between or Kumbhaka :This is the state in between puraka and rechaka. This is a state where puraka is completed rechaka is withheld for a while. Here air remains dormant in the system and it does not rise. However it is not advisable to start doing this immediately. One can wait for a few months and practice the initial steps before learning to hold the breath.

The process of holding the breath or Bandhas :Jalandhara bandh is a technique where after completing the puraka both nostrils are closed. The right one is closed with the thumb and the left is closed with two fingers. Head is lowered in front and the chin is set against the jugular notch below the throat.

After holding the breath for ten seconds taken through the left nostril by puraka the muscles of anus and pelvis are released and then rechaka is made. Next this procedure is repeated through the right nostril. The process can be repeated several times on both sides. The numbers can be gradually increased as one develops enough capacity to do it.

Eight types of Pranayama:

Suryabhedana Pranayama: Here right nostril is used for inhalation and left for exhalation.

Ujjayi Pranayama: Here inhalations are done through both nostrils and exhalations through the left one.

Shitali Pranayama: Here inhalation is done through mouth and exhalation through the both nostrils. Tongue is rolled like a tunnel for sucking in air.

Sitakari Pranayama: Here inhalation is done through the mouth with the tip of tongue pressed against the teeth and exhalations are done through both nostrils.

BhastrikaPranayama: It is a combination of Kapalabhatiand Suryabhedana with twenty to forty exhalations are done through nostrils before inhalation.

Bhramari Pranayama: Bhramara means a bumble bee. Here a noise is made while inhalations and exhalations through the nostrils.

Murchha Pranayama: Here jalandhara bandh is practiced during kumbhaka and rechaka.

Plavini Pranayama: This is practiced in order to float in water. It is an advanced form of Pranayama.

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