March 23, 2013

Yoga & Breath: The Basic Pranayamas. ~ Navodita Pande

Breath is the basic life force in a living being.

Most students have appreciated the role of yoga in controlling breath.

Breath has a tremendous power to heal and to rejuvenate. Its importance in therapeutic cases cannot be undermined. Swami Ramdev has revolutionized the use of various breathing techniques or Pranayama all across North India.

So, what are the different uses of breath?

Deep breaths clears the senses, energizes the mind, cools the eyes and releases the stress and the pain away. Try it and find out for yourself how. Here are the various types of basic pranayama for starters:

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Sodhana means purifying or cleansing, so the object of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the purification of the nerves.

•       Perform Jnana Mudra with the left hand (index finger and thumb joined) and bend the right arm at the elbow.
•       Bend the index and middle fingers and place them in the middle of your eyebrows. Press the ring and little finger against the left nostril while inhaling from the right and place the right thumb on the right side of the nose just below the nasal bone.
•       Inhale through the left nostril, blocking the right one and slowly block the left nostril. Then release the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril, blocking the left nostril.
Repeat 8 to 10 cycles. This should take about six to eight minutes.

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika means a bellows used in a furnace. Sitting in the same posture, follow this technique:

•       Take a fast, vigorous breath and exhale forcefully with a loud sound of air gushing out of your nostrils.
•       Complete 10 to 12 cycles at a stretch.

Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapala means skull and Bhati means light; this is a milder form of Bhastrika Pranayama.

•       Follow the same steps as mentioned above.

•       Inhale slowly but exhale vigorously.

•       There is a split second of retention (holding the breath) after each exhalation.

Do a few cycles of Kapalabhati if Bhastrika feels strenuous.

Benefits of Pranayama

While Bhastrika and Kapalabhati activate and invigorate the liver, spleen, pancreas and abdominal muscles, digestion is improved and sinuses are drained. Nadi Shodhana is good for soothing the nerves. The real disclaimer here is that those suffering from high or low blood pressure, heart ailments or eye or ear complaints (pus in the ear, detachment of the retina) should avoid doing strenuous pranayama and be happy performing 10 to 15 simple deep breathing cycles without holding the breath.



Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was nine years old, when she began training in Iyengar Yoga at school under the instructors Rajiv and Swati Chanchani. By age 15, Pande was already teaching yoga to the juniors at her school. As a yoga instructor, Pande combines Iyengar Yoga tactics with holistic practices. For example, she applies elementary Iyengar principles to therapeutic treatments that help improve the health of students with early spondylitis or diabetes.

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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