Pranayama: Breathing Exercises for Body and Soul

Article by Sumedha Rewar

Pranayama is the Yoga Science of Breathing. Oxygen is the necessity of everybody and it helps in the integration of brain, internal organs, glands and nerves. It is the vital need for survival of human beings.

Pranayama yoga is the technique of balancing the breath and maintaining a perfect flow for the proper functioning of body parts. These techniques are performed while sitting on the floor on a yoga mat or any kind of asana.

The perfect posture for doing Pranayama is Padamasana, but it could be done in other postures as well. The base of the back has to be kept erect from the base to the spine of the neck and particularly perpendicular to the floor.

The wrong posture for Pranayama can hamper endurance and result in shallow breathing.

Empty bladder is the best for beginning Pranayama yoga exercises.

Best time to Perform Pranayama:

Empty stomach is the best for performing Pranayama. It can be performed anytime during the day, but the best time to practice it is in the early morning (before sunrise) when body and brain are free.

It can even be performed after sunset when the air becomes pleasant and cool. The place where you are doing the exercise must be very clean and calm.

Pranayama - Breathing Exercises for Body and Soul
Image by Jana Míková

Major Pranayama Types & Instructions for performing them:

Nadi Sodhana

You can perform the following steps for performing the Nadi Sodhana Pranayama:
• Sit down in cross-legged position or preferably in Padamasana.
• Use your right-hand thumb for closing the right side of the nose. Carry out deep inhalation by using the left nostril.
• Now, close the left nostril and exhale using the right side.
• Similarly, keep the left nostril closed and inhale through the right nostril and exhale with the left one.

This exercise has to be continuously done for 10-15 times for the best results. It will have a positive impact on your nervous system and keep the veins intact.

Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapalbhati Pranayam is a famous technique followed by people of all ages. You can sit in a comfortable position by keeping your back to spine intact.

Perform deep inhalation and exhalation to begin.

The process begins by inhaling deeply and exhaling all the air out of the stomach. The belly should draw in while exhaling.

Don’t carry any surplus efforts for inhaling and let the process happen passively to get the required results.

Do this process for 20-30 times in approximately 10 sets throughout the day.

Ujjayi Pranayama

The word ‘Ujjayi’ refers to the ocean and this pranayama form includes the production of ocean sound or more precisely, the sound of waves.

Cross your legs and sit straight. Begin to inhale and exhale deeply using your mouth.

You need to make sure that your throat has to be constricted as if there is something choking when you inhale.

It will produce a choking sound from your throat. Stay for some time and exhale with your left nostril.

Make sure that you keep the same sound while exhaling. You can repeat this process for about 10-20 times.

Shitali Pranayama

Shital refers to ‘cool’. This pranayama technique will help in achieving calmness of mind. You need to be seated in a comfortable position. Cross your legs and begin with five deep breaths to get started.

Open your mouth in ‘o’ shape and begin inhaling through the mouth. Exhaling has to be done with the nose. Repeat it 10-15 times.

Dirga Pranayama – Three Part Breathing

This is a different type of pranayama. You need to lie down on the floor (on a yoga mat or asana). The technique follows deep inhalation and exhalation process. Lie down on your back and close your eyes. Relax your body in the beginning.

Step 1: Inhale a lot of air slowly to fill the air in your belly. The belly should reveal like a balloon. Hold on to this position for a few seconds and then exhale by eliminating the whole air, so as there is no air left.

Step 2: Inhale deeply and fill up your belly. Inhale more and fill the rib cage. In the exhalation process, begin exhaling from your rib cage and then towards your belly.

Step 3: Inhale deeply and fill the air in your belly and rib cage. Fill up some more air in your heart center. Exhale from heart center, rib cage and then belly.

Repeat the process 5-6 times.

Pranayama- Breathing Exercises for Body and Soul
Image by Nikiko

Viloma Pranayama

Viloma Pranayama includes breathing at regular intervals. It has two stages: Paused Inhalation and Paused Exhalation.

Paused Inhalation:
• Lie down in a comfortable position and relax. Take deep breaths.
• Inhale for 2-3 seconds and give a pause. Hold your breath for 3-4 seconds and then restart inhalation. Keep on pausing and inhaling. Repeat it till the lungs get filled with air.
• Start exhaling slowly till your lungs get free from air.

Paused Exhalation:
Do the exact opposite process to that of paused inhalation process.

Exhale with regular pauses and do it till the lungs get freed from the air.

Anuloma Pranayama

Similar to Viloma, Anuloma pranayama is about alternative nostril breathing.

In this case, the inhaling and exhaling are done with one blocked nostril and the next one with the partially open side. There are many variations for this type of yoga. It can clean nasal passages and other nervous blockages.

Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama

Anulom Vilom Pranayama is simple. You have to close your eyes and sit in Padamasana or any comfortable sitting posture.

Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale slowly through your left nostril and fill your belly. Now, remove the thumb from right nostril and keep your middle finger on the left nostril (close it) and exhale through the right nostril.

Now, again inhale through the right nostril and exhale from the left one.

Continue this process for five minutes. Concentrate your breathing and remain focused.

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika means breathing like bellows. This type of pranayama is done in seated position with erect back and neck. In kapalbhati pranayama, there is only forced exhalation.

In Bhastrika, there is forced inhalation and exhalation of the air from the lungs. The air is inhaled in a brisk position towards the back and exhaled with the same force.

This pranayama is meant for getting sufficient amount of oxygen in the body and maintaining good health for body parts.

Bahya Pranayama

The word Bahya refers to external. This pranayama is meant for the retention or holding the breath.

The ratio of pranayama is 1:2:3, which means that inhaling requires one second, exhaling 2 seconds and holding the breath for 3 seconds.

Bhramari Pranayama

Bhramari pranayama involves the production of humming bee breath sound similar to the humming of a bee.

Bramar is a black Indian bee and produces a humming sound. This pranayama soothes the nerves and calms the mind.

The process is simple. Sit on Padamasana or any other asana.

Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Close your ears with thumbs and place the index finger above eyebrows and other fingers over the eyes (middle finger mainly closing the eyes).

Keep your concentration between eyebrows area. Breath out slowly by producing a humming sound of the word ‘Om…..’
Repeat this process for 5-6 times and feel the positive vibes spread around your brain.

Udgeeth pranayama

It is the easiest and most common pranayama. You have to chant Om on every exhalation. Inhale normally and exhale by chanting ‘Ommm…’ sound.

Agnisar Kriya

Agni means fire and Sar mean to wash away. Agnisar Kriya helps in washing off the fire chakra on the naval center.

Sit in the straight posture. Keep your hands on the knees in a comfortable position.

Start normal breathing. Exhale very slowly and in a stable way.

Stretch the hands straight and keep them on knees with minor pressure.

Contract and expand the stomach area and try your best to touch the navel inside the stomach. Begin with 5 cycles and go up to 15-20 cycles.

Importance of Pranayama

Pranayama in yoga has been benefited millions of people in stress-related troubles, physical problems and mental imbalances.

It has cured many people from the minor to major ailments.

These techniques are effective for mind and body on the whole. It can evoke sound judgment by making strong will power and steady mind, calms your inner body and extends healthy living.

It is good for people of all the ages.

Regular practice of Pranayama can delay the aging process in people.

Pranayama should be done approximately four hours after consuming the food and early morning is the best time to do these breathing exercises.

Sumedha Rewar
Sumedha Rewar

Sumedha has IT background and has the inclination towards Yoga, Reiki and Naturopathy. She has always intended to give the best to humanity in whichever way she can. She believes that positive approach in life and faith in anything can lead you towards a better living. Her proclivity in the world of meditation has made her choose a different path from her academics. You can reach her directly on the email ID