Pranayama for Health and Vitality
What Is Prana?
Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifested in the universe. It is the vital force, Sukshma. Breath is the external manifestation of Prana. By exercising control over this gross breath, you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. It is the Sukshma Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. Prana is the sum total of all latent forces which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism are all the manifestations of Prana. Prana is related to mind; through mind to the will; through will to the individual soul, and through this to the Supreme Being.
The seat of Prana is the heart. Prana is one; but it has many functions to do. Hence it assumes five names according to the different functions it performs, viz., Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana. According to the different functions they perform, they occupy certain places in the body.
Breath directed by thought under the control of the will is a vitalising, regenerated force which can be utilised consciously for self-development, for healing many incurable diseases and for many other useful purposes. Hatha Yogins consider that Prana Tattva is superior to Manas Tattva (mind), as Prana is present even when mind is absent during deep sleep. Hence Prana plays a more vital part than mind.
If you know how to control the little waves of Prana working through mind, then the secret of subjugating the universal Prana will be known to you. The Yogin who becomes an expert in the knowledge of this secret, will have no fear from any power, because he has mastery over all manifestations of power in the Universe. What is commonly known as Power of Personality is nothing more than the natural capacity of a person to wield his Prana. Some people are more powerful in life, more influential and fascinating than others. It is all through this Prana, which the Yogin uses consciously by the command of his will.
Vital force, vitality, nourishment, upward flowing
- Ujjayi (Victorious breath)
Sit comfortably, easily. Close the mouth. Inhale slowly through both the nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner.
Expand the chest when you inhale. During inhalation a peculiar sound is produced owing to the partial closing of glottis. The sound produced during inhalation should be of a mild and uniform pitch. It should be continuous also. This breath technique may be practised even when walking or standing – exhale slowly through both nostrils making the same sound.
Benefits: This removes the heat in the head. The practitioner becomes very beautiful. The gastric fire is increased. It removes phlegm in the throat. Asthma, snoring, beneficial for thyroid problems, consumption and all sorts of pulmonary diseases are cured. All diseases that arise from deficient inhalation of oxygen and diseases of the heart are cured. All works are accomplished by Ujjayi Pranayama. The practitioner is never attacked by diseases of phlegm, nerves, enlargement of spleen, dyspepsia, dysentery, consumption, cough or fever. Improves mental health and particularly the nervous system. Perform Ujjayi to destroy decay and death.
- Kapalabhati (the breath of fire or the skull shining breath, invigorating, energizing, and purifying)
Very active forced exhalations with a passive inhalation – while exhaling – quickly pump the belly into the back of the spine forcing the air out of the nose. Place one of your hands on your belly if you so wish in order to feel more the action. KEEP STEADY RHYTHM. Do 3 sets of 30 repetitions.
Avoid if under high medication for blood pressure, recent abdominal surgery/injury or pregnancy.
Benefits: Maintains good health and fights disease, nadis (nerves) of the brain get good exercise, regular practice (10-15 min daily) will aid in riding forehead of wrinkles, improves luster of skin, strengthens nerves and brain centers, massages internal organs.
- Bhastrika (Bellow’s breath)
Rapid sucession of forcible breaths. Sitting in Vajrasana (hero’s pose or kneeling), hands resting on your lap, palms facing upward. Take a few calming natural breaths to prepare. Bring your hands in a fist position by the side of your shoulders. – Inhale powerfully through the nose and raise your arms above your head with open hands, exhale forcefully as you bring your arms back to starting position, continue for the required amount of repetitions. On the last exhalation – follow it by a deep possible inhalation – breath is suspended for as long as it can be done with comfort, simultaneously: engage the lower bandhas (pelvic floor closes and belly button pulls back to back of the spine, both to 30% of max) follow it by a slow and deep possible, exhalation. – Rest for 5 deep normal breaths before starting again. – 3 sets.
Benefits: Relieves inflammation of the throat, increases gastric fire, removes disease of the nose, chest and eradicates asthama, it gives good appetite, breaks and dissolves tumors, wakes up kindalini energy, removes all diseases which arise from excess wind, bile and phlegm, gives warmth to the body, purifies the nadis considerably, useful in muscular dystrophy and oxygen deficiency disorders, it balances the 3 doshas, purifies the blood, helps to rid body of foreign intruders and toxins, stabilizes prana, calms the mind and nervous system.
- Shitali (The cooling breath)
Roll the tongue into a tube (as best as you can) and stick the tip of the tongue out of the mouth. Inhale through the tongue and hold the breath in for 4-5 seconds with the chin pressed against the chest. Exhale using Ujjayi Pranayama through the nose. Repeat 5-10 times.
Benefits: Lowers temperature of the body in the heat, quenches thirst,cures acidity, hypertension, skin diseases, removes impurities from the blood, improves overall fitness, brings a glow to the face.
Sound is the highest vibration of consciousness
Sound is carried through the bones of the human body.
Your consciousness is laying dormant at the bottom of your pelvic cavity (pelvic floor area) and in order to wake it up, one must use sound (vibration), movement and breath.
CHANT “OM” (oum) 3 TIMES AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR PRANAYAMA EXERCISES.
OM: Universal/Primordial sound of everything, – It is the root of all mantras.
Mantras: Combination of Sanskrit words that have a soothing effect in the sympathetic system (stress response/ flight 2 flight response mechanism)
5 Reasons to Practice Breath of Fire Yoga
Kapalabhati Pranayama or “Cleaning Breath” is an intermediate to advanced pranayama that consists of short, powerful exhales and passive inhales. This practice is also known as the “Breath of Fire.” The exercise purifies the lungs and nasal passages. It is a powerful, one of a kind breathing exercise that will help the entire body.
Kapalabhati helps to make the motions of your diaphragm very easy and controlled. This helps it to discard the muscle cramps present in bronchial tubes. A lot of force is used to do this pranayama. While exhaling, the process is very strong and while inhaling, the process is very calming. It is a very energizing technique, and when done correctly it will reboot all your muscles. It is also a cleansing technique that places emphasis on cleaning the air passages and blockages in the chest.
Cleanse Yourself of Toxic Air
Kapalabhati clears the body from the constant intake of toxins, thus detoxifying it. This technique helps to replace any toxic air with fresh air. The breathing mainly takes place from the abdomen, as opposed to the chest, and this specifically is what helps to remove the toxic air. Kapala means “the skull” and bhati means “brings lightness.” Breathing in this way lightens your skull by extracting problems like sinusitis. This is an invigorating and energizing practice as it fills your stuffy skull with fresh air.
The practice also improves bowel movements which rids the body of the many diseases.
Excellent for Respiratory Problems
It is also one of the best exercises for asthma patients and people suffering from respiratory problems. This stimulating breath can do wonders for every single tissue in your body. The breathing technique will invigorate your spine.
Increases Blood Circulation
It is also useful for maintaining blood pressure. The abdominal organs also become strengthened from the pressure applied to these organs while breathing and exhaling. It increases the blood circulation due to fresh supply of blood. It is also useful for removing impurities from the blood.
Tones Your Abdomen
The abdominal area is toned with the help of this breathing technique. It helps clear the entire nervous system which proves to be very useful in making the body fit.
Helps with Decision Making
A sense of calmness is also achieved due to the lightness of the skull. Kapalabhati helps one to think better and make decisions quickly while also keeping the mind alert. This is a wonderful breathing technique to help the mind and soul, as it helps to awaken the spiritual power which heals many problems facing many of us today.
It should also be noted that Kapalabhati Pranayama is not recommended for those who suffer from cardiac problems, hernia and spinal disorders. In addition, those who suffer from severe respiratory infections, colds and nasal obstruction should not perform this breathing and cleansing technique. Most physicians usually ask people suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes to refrain from performing this breathing technique. Those with abdominal ulcers should also avoid performing the technique. If you are pregnant, you should not practice this type of breathing exercise.
Since there are some Kapalabhati risks it is best to perform it only after consulting with a qualified yoga instructor who has practiced this breathing technique and is familiar with it.