There are different types of breathing Pranayama techniques. Each of these techniques, while having different approaches to them, have their specific usages and benefits in enhancing the practice of Yoga.
1. Surya Bhedana
Surya Bhedana is a core Pranayama that is usually performed with retention of breath, the Kumbhaka. Here, breathing is allowed only
through the right nostril. As a result, all the organs become reset and are able to perform their duties properly.
How to perform Surya Bhedana:
You can adopt a padmasana or Siddhasana sitting position. Just make sure whatever asana you choose is a meditative one (we have discussed in previous chapters the most suitable asanas for Pranayama and meditation). Straighten your spine and rest your hands on your knees.
Then lift your right hand and place its middle and forefingers on your forehead, exactly the space between your eyebrows. Block your left nostril with the ring finger before going on to take slow and deep breaths into the lungs from the right nostril.
Afterward, you will have to perform two bandhas; the Jalandhar and Mula bandhas. Then retain the breath for as long as you can until you can hold it no more, releasing yourself from the bandhas. Let the right nostril remain closed as you exhale from the left nostril. The process can be carried out for around five more times. It will increase as you practice.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as ocean breath , it gives warmth to the body. It is a breathing technique that provides the mind with calmness and concentration. During this process, the lugs are totally filled with air, so that the throat becomes a little compressed. Ujjayi is also a flexible Pranayama that can be practiced in almost every Yogic pose, and holds its popularity in the more dynamic styles of Yoga such as Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power Yoga.
How to perform Ujjayi:
Sit in a relaxing pose with your eyes closed. take slow deep breaths through the two nostrils with your mouth slightly open. In the process of exhale, let the back of your throat contract slightly from the movement of air through it. From the upper throat, emit a hiss when you inhale, doing the same contraction of the back of your throat as air moves through it.
Once you have a grasp of the throat during inhalation ad exhalation, shut your mouth, so that you are only breathing through the nostrils. Now, keep contracting the back of the throat same as before. You should hear loud sounds coming from both nostrils.
In the Ujjayi Pranayama breathing technique, the lower the amount of air that is able to move in the throat, the higher the control the individual has over his breath.
3. Bhastrika Pranayama
Bhastrika Pranayama is a classical breathing technique that is also known as “ bellows breath ”. It diffuses a clouded mind and brings it to a state of comprehension. The process of Bhastrika deals with taking quick deep breaths, both in inhalation and exhalation. As a result, the movement of the blood occurs at a much faster rate to all parts of the body. There is a contraction of the chest during exhalation and an expansion during inhalation.
How to Perform Bhastrika:
Find a suitable asana, keeping the spine erect. Padmasana, a variation of seated, standing, or even a kneeling posture may serve you better.
Take quick and forceful inhalations and exhalations, one after the other through the two nostrils. Ensure that your lungs are well stocked with air. After inhaling deeply for the first time, exhale with great force. Evidence of this will be found in the hissing sound that comes afterwards.
The essence of the practice of Bhastrika is in the force being applied when breathing quickly. Practitioners of Bhastrika find it useful in that it flushes toxins that are present in the respiratory tract. It also increases the amount of oxygen that’s been carried by the red blood cells.
4. Nadi Shodhana
Nadi Shodana is also known as “ alternate nostril breathing ”. It is the simplest, albeit very powerful Pranayama, that allows practitioners at any stage of their yogic endeavors to practice. Insomnia patients would find it extremely useful for easing the brain and mind from troubled thoughts.
We discussed earlier about how Nadis are channels through which Prana flows through. Nadi Shodhana is all about unblocking all the channels that have been blocked by negative emotions like fear, stress, anxiety, etc…
How to Perform Nadi Shodhana:
Seat in a comfortable posture, keeping the back straight. Rest your left palm on your thigh and suspend your right hand in direct parallel with your face.
Fold the middle and index fingers, letting them meet at the base of your palm. Rest your thumb just beside the right nostril and then the little and ring fingers beside the left nostril. Block the right nostril with the thumb beside it. take a slow and deep breath from the left nostril.
Afterward, switch to the left nostril. Block the passage of air through it using the little finger and the ring finger. Remember, apply subtle pressure.
You don’t want to hurt your nose. Release the hold of your thumb on the right nostril and take a deep exhale from therein. You can then alternate the process by changing the process on each nose.
5. Bhramari Pranayama
Bhramari Pranayama, also known as the “ humming bee ” breathing technique, is a Pranayama that was named so because of its resemblance to the similar sound that a bee makes. It works it wonders especially in the forehead and the brain by calming the nerves around them.
How to Perform Bhramari Pranayama:
Sit in a suitable asana. Let the mouth be close but the teeth away from each other. Block both ears with the index fingers on both hands.
While the ears are closed, take a deep inhalation so that the lungs are filled with air. Afterwards, release the air from your lungs, humming in the throat as you do so.
You will feel the vibrating effect of the sound you’re making in your head. Try the procedure again for as many times as possible.
Sheetali Pranayama is also known as the “ cooling Pranayama ”. It is effective for giving the mind and the body a cooling effect. Breathing the Sheetali way helps to regulate the temperature of an individual’s body.
How to Perform Sheetali:
Once a suitable asana has been chosen, rest your palms on each knee. Make a tube-like shape with your tongue, folding it from each side of the tongue.
Do a complete breath afterward; filling the chest, the neck and the abdominal cavity with air. Draw your tongue back into the mouth and shut it.
Drop your neck to perform Jalandhara Bandha. Sustain your breath in this pose for as long as possible. When you reach yielding point, exhale deeply through the nostril.
7. Murcha Pranayama
Firstly, Murcha Pranayama is strongly recommended for individuals who are already capable of performing other Pranayama techniques. It requires that the individual maintains a certain posture until he begins to feel the urge to pass out.
There is drawn-out sustenance of breath from entering through the nostrils and the locking of the chin just beside the thyroid gland. People who are successful at practicing Murcha Pranayama are often able to experience certain feelings, like joy, in abundance.
How to Perform Murccha Pranayama:
Find a suitable asana. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils, making sure your eye are closed. Inhale again for 5 counts.
Then raise your head in the direction of the chin and the chest. In this posture, retain your breath for at least five seconds. Let the breath escape through your nostrils after the time.
8. Plavini Pranayama
The meaning of the Sanskrit word Plavini is “ to float ”. Here, the individual is likened to someone that is drinking air instead of water. As a result, there is an expansion of the stomach. Individuals who know how to perform Plavini Pranayama properly often have the ability to go for a long time without eating or drinking anytime.
Enough energy has been collected from the atmosphere already during breathing.
The practice is described in verse 70 of the second chapter of Hatha Yoga Pradipika :
“Owing to the air, which has been abundantly drawn in, completely filling the interior, the Yogi floats easily, even in deep waters, like a lotus leaf.”
How to Perform Plavini:
Sitting in a comfortable asana, drawn in a full breath through both nostrils. Retain your breath using the Jalahandhra bandha.
This way, there is a circulation of the breath to the stomach and ultimately the intestines, instead of only the lungs. Once you have felt your stomach bloat, exhale deeply through both nostrils.
9. Kapalabhati Pranayama
Kapalabhati Pranayama concerns its practice with performing short and deep exhales but almost unconscious inhales. It acts as a cleanser of the respiratory system and the lungs, from all impurities. The continuous practice also develops the muscles in the diaphragm and the abdomen.
How to Perform Kapalabhati Pranayama:
As always, sit in a comfortable asana, keeping the back straight and ensuring that there is no contraction in the abdomen. Place your hands on your knees, with the palms facing downwards.
Alternatively, as a means of focusing on the lower stomach, place your two hands on the stomach instead of your knees. Drawn in a deep breath through both nostrils. Then compress the lower stomach so that the air comes out.
While you release yourself from the compression, inhalation becomes voluntary. This way, it enables you to put all your concentration of exhaling.
10. Anulom Vilom Pranayama
Anulom Vilom is an alternate nostril breathing technique that can be practiced without the individual especially having to hold his breath.
How to Perform Anulom Vilom:
Find and sit in a comfortable asana, most preferably the padmasana. Block the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Continue to inhale until the lugs are filled.
Afterward, release your thumb and block the left nostril with the ring finger. Exhale through the right nostril.
Switch the procedure by inhaling from the right nostril and exhaling from the left nostril. You perform the sequence for as long as you can go.
As an individual, you must realize that all these breathing techniques have one thing in common, which is to clear the mind. For without a clear mind, meditation is impossible.