Pranayama is basically control and regulation of breath, the force that sustains our life. It teaches the proper way to breathe so as to keep our body healthy. Even in Gita Lord Krishna tells us about pranayama and its need (Bhagvat Gita Chapter IV-29). Today even medically it’s a proven fact that pranayama helps a lot to fight with many of our health related troubles.
Before going into its benefits and the science behind it, let us see the correct method to practice the same. I’ll explain the one I have been following and have gained lot of benefit in the past many years.
Pranayama consists of three steps, Puraka, Rechaka and Kumbhaka. When you inhale breathe its called Puraka. The exhaling of hot air is Rechaka. Inbetween you suspend the breath it’s called Kumbhaka. Our body carries seven chakras but here only six are taken into consideration and only after mastering them, one goes to the seventh one.
The six Chakras:-
1. Mooldhara - Positioned near anus and is a red four petal lotus.
2. Swadhisthana – Its immediately above mooldhara, positioned above the top of our tail bone. This is an orange six petal lotus.
3. Manipura – Positioned in the navel and is yellow ten petal lotus.
4. Anahata – It’s positioned in our heart. This chakra is green twelve petal lotus.
5. Viishuddhi – It’s at the root of the neck and consists of blue colour sixteen petal lotus.
6. Ajna/Agya – It’s situated on forehead between the eyebrows. This chakra is two petal lotus of indigo colour.
These are the six chakras and their position in our body. To know their positions properly and visualizing them in mind is a major step for rendering perfect pranayama.
The Asana to sit:-
The first step is to sit in a proper position (asana) before getting started with pranayama. The normal practice is to sit straight in padmasana without any support and both the hands on your knee. If you find sitting in this asana is not possible medically or otherwise, then sit in siddhasana. Breathe slowly few times and relax the body.
When ready now fold the tongue upward inside the mouth. This is called “Khechari” mudra and an important mudra in pranayama. It helps in calming down the mind. Throughout the pranayama you need to keep this mudra.
Breathing and its technique is an important part of pranayama. Don’t breathe forcefully through lungs. Do the abdominal breathing by using the diaphragm. This can be accomplished with the help of our lower glottis, by contracting and expanding it.
- When you are inhaling (Puraka), curl the tongue up (Khechari mudra) and open the nostrils fully and also the lower glottis. Expand both, the nostril and lower glottis. Now inhale slowly in a relaxed manner. Early days don’t try to make it too slow, that will come automatically with practice. Just inhale in a relaxed manner and visualize the chakras while mentally touching upon them all one by one on your way up. You start with the first chakra, Mooldhara and go up to reach Agya chakra. The best way to touch upon the chakras is to offer “Om” to them all one by one.
you reach Agya chakra, stay a while for some time holding your breath. This is
called “Kumbhaka”. Again don’t try to forcefully stop your breath and cause uncomforted
feeling to the body. Stay only for the duration that you are comfortable with. With
practice kumbhaka time would increase on its own. During Kumbhaka, try to put
all your attention to this chakra between the eyebrows, the Agya Chakra.
- Next step is the Rechaka or exhaling the air. Contract the lower glottis and slowly slowly exhale out the air and while doing it again touch upon each chakra. Contracting the glottis will automatically make the exhalation time more than the inhalation time which is needed during Rechaka. While touching upon the chakras, this time start with the Agya chakra and go down to the Mooldhara chakra.
This completes one complete pranayama and you need to do this 12 times.
Uses of Pranayama:-
1. One of the most important help pranayama provides is to teach us how to breathe in the right manner. Forceful breathing through chest or lungs is not the correct way. And if you are suffering from respiratory problems, this method of breathing may cause more trauma as there’s more pressure on lungs and tracheas. Breathing through diaphragm relaxes and also helps in increasing the lung capacity. You are able to take much longer inhalations.
2. Pranayama keeps body healthy by making it toxin free. It’s a very logical scientific conclusion, when you breathe in more; more oxygen gets supplied to the body. And while exhaling you can now throw out more toxins from the body. This helps in fighting many illnesses.
3. The complete metabolism of the body increases thus keeping it healthier in the long run.
4. Pranayama helps a lot in gaining concentration and will power because besides breathing control, you are also practicing how to focus. This helps a lot in gaining self-confidence.