Benefits Of Pranayama: 7 Types Of Pranayama And Breathing Exercises


Know the health benefits of Pranayama and the different types of Pranayama exercises like Kapalbhati and Anulom Vilom. Now lead a healthy lifestyle with Pranayama and Yoga!

Written By Lifestyle Desk | Mumbai | Updated On:

What's the first thing that we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we leave this world? That's right, breathe. A breath is an indicator of life itself! And yet, it's the one thing that we constantly take for granted. Just think about it - We sharpen our brain through academics, we get our body in shape through sports and fitness, we train ourselves to gain skills. But did you ever learn to breathe? 

Join us as we learn about the ancient art of Pranayama.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama (prana - breath, ayama - control) are a set of exercises that scientifically combine systematic inhalation and exhalation, thus helping us achieve control over each part. If you have had even a brief experience with Yoga in the past, the word Pranayama would have come up in connection with the workout. 

So how is Pranayama associated with Yoga? 

•    Yoga involves exercise through poses or asanas - Here, you strive to achieve your ideal physical self. 
•    A more important part of Yoga is dhyana (meditation) - Here you guide your active mind through a set of steps to experience inner-peace.

Pranayama is the link that connects your physical yoga practices (asanas) with your mental yoga practices (meditation). 

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What are the Pranayama types? 

There are 7 types of Pranayama that are practiced. 

•    Bhastrika - This bellow breath pranayama helps to increase the life force in your being, thus energizing the body and mind. 
•    Kapalbhati - This pranayama cleanses your body of toxins, improves the functioning of your organs and gives you a lustrous appearance. 
•    Bahya - This pranayama is very crucial to improve your digestive process and get rid of any gastric ailments that you may be facing.
•    Anulom Vilom - This pranayama helps in curing respiratory illnesses like asthma and heart related ailments like blood pressure.
•    Bharmari - This pranayama has instant benefits for your mind and helps rid you of stress, tension, anger and anxiety.
•    Udgeeth - This pranayama helps you calm your mind down and brings you a sense of stability. 
•    Pranav - This pranayama helps you relieve tension, anger and anxiety and has been shown to be beneficial in curing migraines.

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What are the benefits of Pranayama?

Pranayama breathing exercises have proven to have quantifiable benefits on a person's health when practiced over a period of time. 

•    It has been shown to improve the flow of blood throughout your body, thus ensuring your organs are functioning optimally. 
•    Deep breathing makes oxygen supply in the blood rich and plentiful, which helps us in regulating our weight. The higher the amount of oxygen in the blood, the more calories you burn!
•    It controls the ageing process by keeping your mind and body sharp and deeply connected to each other. 
•    Practicing Pranayama over the years, helps in building a powerful immunity that keeps you disease free while also retaining your vigor and vitality. 
•    Your lungs expand and contract optimally thus keeping your lung muscles strong and allowing your them to work efficiently. Respiratory illnesses like asthma are best controlled by breathing exercises. 
•    It helps your mind become sharper and is able to handle the daily occurrences of stress and anxiety better. Migraine attacks can be controlled. With a sharper mind, problems like depression, fatigue and lethargy can be controlled. 
•    Pranayama also helps your heart become stronger. Better blood circulation keeps your heart young while also bringing your blood pressure under control. 

What should I know before I begin?

Always discuss with a medical professional before starting a new health routine. These are some general guidelines for practice. 

1. Where can I practice? - Any place where you can practice yoga is good for Pranayama too. Find a place that is not too crowded or noisy where you can concentrate and feel at peace. Do not practice in polluted air or air carrying allergens since the deep breathing will only aggravate your problems.  
2. Can I do Pranayama after lunch? - For best results, always do breathing exercises on an empty stomach.  Hence, Pranayama is best done in the morning and evening hours when you have at least a 5 hour gap from your last meal.
3. How often and how long should I practice? - The effects of Pranayama will provide you long term advantages only if you practice it regularly. Start with 15 minute practice sessions and try to work under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor. 
4. Is Pranayama advisable even when I am sick? - Certain types of Pranayama are not suitable for you if you have gastric problems. Similarly, women who are pregnant or have their menstrual cycles should abstain from Pranayama that involves rapid movement.    
5. What is the Pranava Mudra? - If a Pranayam involves closing your nostrils to alternate breathing, you must use the Pranava mudra. This involves curving the first two fingers of your right hand and keeping the last two fingers upright and pressed to each other. The thumb is used to close the right nostril, while the last two fingers together close the left nostril.

Before you move on...

Remember, while 15 minutes may seem like a small amount of time, it is virtually impossible for beginners to sit erect for that period while concentrating on their breathing. It is meaningless to perform the exercise even as your whole body is screaming in pain and your mind is wandering. 

So, always start slow, focus on your Pranayama until your body and mind assist in the process and then stop. With regular practice, you will notice that you are able to pull off the asanas for a longer duration. 

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