Balancing and regulating the breathing in order to enhance the overall health is the focus of Pranayama techniques. These techniques consist of various methods, which supply the lungs with enough oxygen, promote better circulation, regulate blood pressure and heart rate, reduce chronic stress and expulse carbon dioxide.

In addition, they help you calm down after a hard working day. One of the best ways to relax and calm down is to regulate breathing. The breathing and the mind are correlated, which makes Pranayama techniques an effective way to regulate stress.

WHAT ARE EFFECTS OF BREATHING ON THE BODY?

When we are thinking, we are breathing slowly. However, if we are agitated, the heart rate increases and we breathe quickly. This suggests that the prana or the vital energy of the body is closely related to the mind.

WHAT DOES PRANAYAMA REPRESENT?

We get prana or vital energy from the sunlight, food and water. The way in which we regulate this prana or vital energy is known as Pranayama technique. We do this by regulating our exhalation, not inhalation. It comes out naturally. By reducing the release of breath we regulate the flow of energy in the body and the mind.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PRANAYAMA TECHNIQUES?

Pranayama techniques prolong longevity, keep us steady and relaxed, and prevent both physical and psychological diseases. Other benefits of Pranayama techniques include:

• Regulate mood and provide relaxation
• Boost the immune system
• Promote digestive processes
• Get rid of toxic waste from the body through effective breathing techniques
• Improve the circulation of blood in the body
• Regulate the high levels of blood pressure
• Regulate heart rate and breathing rate
• Aid weight loss
• Stimulates meditation

There are different types of Pranayama techniques. Here are some of them:

1. Abdominal breathing

The three most common types of breathing are abdominal breathing, clavicular breathing and chest breathing. Abdominal breathing supplies the lungs with enough oxygen. In addition, it offers the following benefits:

• Reduces heat rate, regulates high levels of blood pressure and manages diabetes
• Reduces stress and tension caused by shallow breathing
• Massages the abdominal organs, because when we inhale, the diaphragm does down and the abdomen enlarges
• Massages the heart muscles, because when we exhale, the diaphragm goes down and the abdomen goes up

2. Yogic breathing

Yogic breathing includes the respiratory muscles, i.e. the muscles of the chest, the clavicle and the abdomen. Abdominal breathing supplies the lungs with oxygen. Chest breathing significantly increases the lung capacity, whereas clavicular breathing is rather shallow on it own. However, it improves the breathing techniques by expanding the chest. Other benefits of yogic breathing are:

• Enhances sensory perception
• Refreshes the mind
• Increases the supply of oxygen to the cells in the body

3. Alternate nostril breathing

Anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing) controls the prana or the vital energy within the body. It is also known as nodi shodhana Pranayama technique. Nodi is the right nostril, which is also known as Pingala (sun breath), whereas ida is the left nostril, which is also known as moon breath. Breathing through the nostrils is closely related to the functions of the brain. In other words, the left region of the brain is much more active when the right nostril is open, whereas the right region of the brain is more active when the left nostril is open.

One of the benefits of the right nodi breathing is that it stimulates heat, which boosts metabolism. On the other hand, the left nodi breathing promotes relaxation and calms down the body. Nevertheless, prolonged breathing through the right nostril can cause psychological issues, while prolonged breathing through the left nostril leads to lethargy.

Alternate nostril breathing includes breathing through both nostrils and offers the following health benefits:

• Strengthens and cleanses the lungs
• Expels carbon dioxide
• Improves focus and concentration
• Increases the supply of oxygen to the blood
• Prevents health problems caused by single nostril breathing, thus regulating both hemispheres of the brain

4. Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is one of the six sat kriyas (cleansing exercises) for the body. As it improves the function of the nervous system, it is best to practice it in the morning to maintain you active through the day. Other health benefits of kapalabhati breathing include:

• Tones the digestive and circulatory system
• Massages the pancreas, heart, stomach and liver
• Increases the supply of oxygen in the body and expels carbon dioxide
• Treats asthma
• Treats bronchial congestion
• Increases and strengthens the capacity of the lungs
• Improves the function of the respiratory system and cleanses the nasal airways

Do not practice kapalabhati before going to bed. If you practice it for the first time, you may hyperventilate. In cases like this, lie down and calm down. While breathing, make sure the abdomen moves.

5. Bhastrika

The difference between kapalabhati and Bhastrika is that Bhastrika focuses on the whole respiratory system, whereas kapalabhati focuses only on the diaphragm. Some common benefits of Bhastrika include:

• Boosts appetite
• Treats asthma
• Treats health diseases caused by excess phlegm, wind and bile
• Stimulates gastric fire
• Prevents throat inflammation

6. Ujjavi

Whereas kapalabhati and Bhastrika focus on rapid breathing in order to cleanse the lungs, Ujjavi breathing technique focuses on slow, deep breathing, which fills the lungs with oxygen. Other health benefits of Ujjavi include:

• Controls the nervous system and calms down the body
• Treats dysentery
• Treats dyspepsia
• Aids in digestion
• Gets rid of phlegm from the throat and relieves cough symptoms
• Increases the capacity of the lungs

7. Sitali

Sitali is a breathing technique, which focuses on inhaling through the mouth but exhaling through the nostrils. It has numerous benefits for the overall health, including:

• Lowers thirst
• Cleanses the blood and stimulates blood circulation
• Cleanses the body

8. Kumbhaka

Kumbhaka technique focuses on retaining breath. It can be practiced in two ways – (bahya Kumbhaka) restraining the exhalation and (antara Kumbhaka) restraining the breath intake. It is considered that this breathing technique prolongs longevity. Namely, if you hold the breath for a minute, you can prolong the lifespan for a minute.

9. Agnisar kriya

Agnisar kriya is a Pranayama cleansing technique that offers numerous health benefits:

• Gets rid of excess phlegm
• Treats tuberculosis and helps ease asthma
• Increases the levels of energy
• Helps burn belly fat
• Soothes constipation
• Improves digestion and boosts metabolism

10. Udgeeth Pranayama

Udgeeth Pranayama technique includes chanting ‘Om’ and controlling breathing. Other benefits include:

• Improves memory
• Helps treat acidity
• Treats hypertension
• Provides relaxation to the body

11. Murcha Pranayama

The term Murcha Pranayama means ‘to expand or to faint’. Moreover, this technique uses Kumbhaka and offers numerous health benefits:

• Enhances concentration
• Calms down the mind and the body

If you experience high blood pressure, vertigo or cardiovascular disease, do not practice these Pranayama techniques. Pranayama breathing techniques are beneficial for people of all ages. Nevertheless, if you suffer from heart disease, you should avoid practicing Pranayama. Pregnant women should consult a doctor or a yoga teacher before practicing Pranayama.