Garbh Sanskar : Importance of Pranyam and Its Benefits:
Pranayama has the capacity of freeing the mind from untruthfulness, ignorance and all other painful and unpleasant experiences of the body and mind; and when the mind becomes clean it becomes easy for the Sadhaka to concentrate on the desired object and it becomes possible for him to progress further in the direction of Dhyana and Samadhi.
By Yog asanas, we remove the distortions and disabilities of the physical body and bring it into discipline.
Physically, Pranayam appears to be a systematic exercise of respiration, which makes the lungs stronger, improves blood circulation, makes the man healthier and bestows upon him the boon of a long life. Physiology teaches us that the air (Prana) we breathe in fills our lungs, spreads in the entire body, providing it with essential form the body, take them to the heart and then to the lungs, which throws the useless material like carbon dioxide out of the body through the act of exhalation. If this action of the respiratory system is done regularly and efficiently, lungs become stronger and blood becomes pure.
However, most of the people do not have the habit of breathing deeply with the result that only one-fourth part of the lungs is brought into action and 75 percent remains idle. Like the honeycomb, lungs are made of about 73 million cells, comparable to a sponge in their making. On normal breathing, to which we all are accustomed, only about 20 million pores in the lungs get oxygen, whereas remaining 53 million pores remain deprived of the benefit, with the result that they get contaminated by several diseases like tuberculosis, respiratory diseases and several ailments like coughing, bronchitis etc.
In this way, the inefficient functioning of the lungs affects the process of blood purification. Heart weakens because of this with a constant possibility of untimely death. It is for this reason that the importance of Pranayama has come to be recognised, for a healthy long life. Several diseases can be averted by regular practice of Pranayama.Hence, it is obvious that the knowledge of the science of Pranayama and its regular practice enables a man to lead a healthy and long life. It is for this reason that in several Hindu religious rites, Pranayama is found to have been introduced as an essential element.
Mental disturbances like excitement, anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment, lust for sex (lasciviousness) and other mental perversions can be calmed down by regular practice of Pranayama. Besides, Pranayama practice improves the functions of the brain cells with the result that memory and the faculty of discrimination and observation improves, making it easy for the Sadhaka to perform concentration and meditation.
Another benefit of Pranayama is that by its regular practice, habit of deep breathing is developed which results in several health benefits. It is said that the nature determines our life span on the basis of the number of respirations we do. Man gets the next birth in accordance with his karmas (deeds) done in the present life.
Our karmas (deeds) result in the formation of certain tendencies, which determine the nature of our next birth either as humans or as animals of various categories. A man, who regularly performs Pranayama, is required to take lesser number of breaths and therefore lives longer.
Some rules for Pranayam:
•Select a clean and peaceful place for doing Pranayama. If possible, choose a place near a clean pond or river.
•As there is a lot of pollution in the cities, some kind of incense can be lit like Guggulu and purified butter, to create a clean environment at that place, igniting a lamp with purified butter only, can also serve the purpose.
•Sit either in any of the Asanas, viz. Padmasana, Sidhasana or Vajrasana, which ever you find convenient. The sheet or cloth (cotton or wool etc.) on which you sit must be a non-conductor of electricity.
•Breathe only through the nose, because by doing so the air which you take in, is filtered. During daytime when you are not sitting for the performance of Pranayama make it a habit to do respire only through nose and not through mouth. Nasal respiration keeps the temperature of the Nadis (Vessels) -'Ida',Pingala and 'susmana' even. It also prevents foreign and harmful objects from getting into lungs.
•Like 'Yog', Pranayama should also be performed four or five hours after taking food. In the morning Pranayama should be done after finishing daily routine acts like cleansing mouth, emptying of bowels etc., it should also be done before Yogsana. In the beginning Pranayama should be done for five or ten minutes gradually the time may be increased up to about 1/2 or 1 hour. Maintain a specific number of repetitions and do not variate. Maintain a specific rhythm. If it is not possible to clean the bowels by morning, at night take some mild laxative like terminalia chebula (Indian Hardaya) or any other mild laxative (a non habit forming medicinal herb having a laxative effect). Kapala-bhati Pranayama, if done regularly for a few days will help in curing constipation.
•Keep your mind calm and composed. However, Pranayama can also calm down the disturbed mind and keep one happy.
•Methods of Pranayama may be varied according to the seasons and your own physical make up and mental attitude. Keep this in mind and modulate the method accordingly. Some Pranayama increase the body temperature, whereas, some bring it down. Some Pranayama maintain the temperature at the normal level.
•If you feel fatigued in the course of doing Pranayama , rest for sometime and then begin deep breathing, which will remove the fatigue.
•Pregnant women, hungry persons, persons suffering from fever and those who are lustful having no control on their passions should not do Pranayama . If you are sick, keep in mind the instructions to be followed by sick persons while during Pranayama.
•For prolonged exercises of Pranayama, observance of celibacy is necessary. Besides, food should be simple not containing irritating spices. It should be 'Sattvika' - (Plain and simple, non-spicy food). Use of cow's milk, ghee (clarified butter), fruits and green vegetables can be said to be ideal food. Moderation also is a good rule to observe.
•Do not strain yourself while doing 'Kumbhak' i.e. retaining the breathed air inside or keeping the air out after exhaling (Breathing in is called 'puraka', retaining the breathed air in is called 'Kumbhak' and exhaling the air is called 'Recak').
•Pranayama does not mean just breathing in, keeping the breathed air in and exhaling it. It also means establishing control on the entire breathing process, and maintaining mental equilibrium, and concentration of mind.
•It is beneficial to chant the mantra (a group of words that carry vibrations and energy) Om (the first cosmic soundless sound), aloud and repeat the same several times before doing Pranayama. Even recital of sacred songs in the praise of almighty God or recital of some sacred hymns may be beneficial. This will calm your mind and make you fit for Pranayama, because a peaceful mind is very essential while doing Pranayama . Mental or loud recitation of Gayatri Mantra (considered as one of the greatest mantra, used in meditation and also for chanting) or any other sacred hymn brings spiritual benefits to the Sadhaka.
•See that while doing Pranayama , none of your organs such as mouth, eyes, nose, etc. feels any strain and it should be done gradually without any undue stress or strain. All the organs of the body should be kept in normal condition. While doing Pranayama sit in an erect posture. Keep your spine and neck straight. This is essential for reaping the full benefit of Pranayama .
•If possible Pranayama should be done after your usual morning functions like cleansing of mouth, evacuation of bowels, bathing etc. However, if it becomes necessary for you to take bath after Pranayama , keep an interval of about 15 to 20 minutes between Pranayama and bathing. For acquiring proficiency in Pranayama do not depend on books or what is done and preached by others. Seek the guidance of an expert and do Pranayama under his direct supervision.
•Different treatise advocating or dealing with the subject of Pranayama describe several methods and each of them has its own importance. However, it is not possible for most people to do all these exercises daily. Hence, with the blessings of our teachers and in view of our experience, we have evolved seven methods of Pranayama , which incorporate into themselves, almost all the peculiarities of Pranayama rendering them scientific and useful from a spiritual point of view. All these seven types of Pranayama can be done, as a routine and in a time bound programme of about 20 minutes. The person who does these exercises daily and regularly can attain following benefits which are briefly described as under:
•All the three Doshas (Humors) - Vata , pitta and Kapha get adjusted in proper proportion and abnormalities in them are removed.
•Digestive system improves and diseases pertaining to digestive organs are cured.
•Diseases pertaining to lungs, heart and brain are also cured.
•Obesity, Diabetes, Cholesterol, Constipation, Flatulence, Acidity, Respiratory troubles, Allergy, Migraine, High blood pressure, diseases pertaining to kidneys, sexual disorders of males and females etc. are also cured.
•Resistance against diseases is stepped up. Immunity develops.
•Hereditary diseases like diabetes and heart disease are can be avoided.
•Falling of hair or its premature graying, appearance of wrinkles on face or other parts of the body at young age, diminution of eye sight, forgetfulness, etc. are relieved and process of aging is retarded.
•Face becomes bright, luminous and calm.
•Energy Chakra are cleansed and enables the practitioner to awaken the Kundalini.
•Mind becomes stable and tranquil. A sense of contentment and enthusiasm or zeal develops. Conditions like depression are relieved.
•Performance of yogic exercises like meditation will be easy.
•All the diseases of the physical and etheric bodies will be cured. Freedom from negative and harmful mental conditions like anger, lasciviousness, greed for money, arrogance etc. will be achieved.
•All the physical and mental disorders and abnormalities are cured and toxins eradicated from the body.
Anuloma Prāṇāyāma is one of several Pranayama or breath exercises used in the practice of Hatha yoga.
Similar to the practice of Nadi Shodhana (commonly called alternate nostril breathing and known in some circles as Anuloma Viloma): Anuloma involves inhaling through both nostrils together and exhaling alternately between the left and right nostrils. The thumb of the right hand is used to manipulate the right nostril, while the pinky and ring finger are used to control the left nostril. Inverted Anuloma breath is called Pratiloma and involves inhaling through alternating nostrils and exhaling through both together. The practice of a kumbhaka or retention is encouraged as students advance at the practice; first at the end of the inhale and eventually the end of the exhale.
When practiced as Saṃa Vṛtti the inhalation, retention and exhalation are all of equal duration. More advanced students may employ Viṣaṃa Vṛtti or uneven breath, using ratios such as 1:4:2. According to many traditions this is not recommended for beginners or anyone practicing without the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Nadi-Shodhan Pranayama :
Nadi means channel and refers to the energy pathways through which prana flows. Shodhana means cleansing -- so Nadi Shodhana means channel cleaning.
Pranayama is Practice only after purifying Nadis. Nadis can be purified by practicing ANULOM-VILOM Pranayama. A common learner must begin the practice of Pranayama with Anulom-vilom. Being simple in nature, even common people also easily practice Anulomvilom Pranayama. It is a kind of Nadi Shodhana, or the sweet breath, is simple form of alternate nostril breathing suitable for beginning and advanced students.
Purification of Nadis
Sit down in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close your right nostril with your right hands thumb and inhale through left nostril as long as you can easily inhale.
When your lungs are full, close both the nostrils and hold the breath for some time. Then slowly exhale through the right nostril closing the left (use your ring and little finger). Thereafter close your left nostril and inhale through the right nostril and then closing both the nostril holds the breath in your body and ultimately exhale the breath through your left nostril. Thus you finish one cycle of veins purifying Pranayama. Practice three or four Avartanas/cycle daily and increase this practice slowly. Once practiced well, practice this Pranayama in the ratio of 1:2:2, That is inhale for four seconds; hold the breath for eight seconds and then exhale the breath in eight seconds. Increase this ratio slowly upto a ratio of 5:20:10.
It's an excellent method to perform Pranayama that does away with the lung’s diseases.
Through this Pranayama, the blood gets an increased amount of life giving oxygen that thoroughly cleans and purifies it, calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right hemispheres, promotes clear thinking . It also purifies the Arteries and veins, through which the blood flows in the body.
Ujjayi breath :
Ujjayi breathing is a breath technique employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. In relation to Yoga, it is sometimes called "the ocean breath".
Unlike some other forms of pranayama, the ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana practice.
Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.
Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The "ocean sound" is created by moving the glottis as air passes in and out. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, the passage of air through which creates a "rushing" sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening of which is, in part, the purpose of ujjayi. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a manner that causes no distress to the practitioner.
According to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who taught the creators of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and others, Ujjayi Pranayama is a balancing and calming breath which increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat. The Hawaiian yoga teacher Wai Lana says Ujjayi Pranayama "tones the lungs and encourages the free and healthy flow of prana", while helping to regulate blood pressure and bringing oxygen to all parts of the lungs."
Ujjayi breathing may be used continuously throughout Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and is frequently used in Power Yoga and Vinyasa, or Flow Yoga. This breath enables the practitioner to maintain a rhythm to his or her practice, take in enough oxygen, and helps build energy to maintain practice, while clearing toxins out of the bodily system. This breath is especially important during transition into and out of asanas (postures), as it helps practitioners to stay present, self-aware and grounded in the practice, which lends it a meditative quality.
Ujjayi, sometimes referred to as "cobra breathing", is also a helpful way for the yogi or yogini to keep the vital life force, prana, circulating throughout the body rather than escaping from it. Ujjayi is said to be similar to the breathing of a new-born baby before the prana begins to flow out into the world's attractions.
Bhastrika (Not prescribed for Pregnant women) :
Bhastrika is one of the most important pranayamas. It is a very mysterious pranayama and not much is known about it. However, many believe that it is a combination of Kapalbhati & Anulom Vilom pranyamas. It is a breathing technique where breathing is forcible and through the nose, with equal time for inhalation and exhalation.Bhastrika Pranayama is aimed at keeping the inhalation cycle equal to exhalation, yet making breath deeper and longer. Deep breath inwards and long exhalation outwords with equal time intervals constitutes this pranayama technique.
Kapalabhati (Not prescribed for pregnant women):
Kapalabhati is an important part of Shatkarma, the yogic system of body cleansing techniques. The word kapalbhati is made up of two words: kapal meaning 'skull' (here skull includes all the organs in and under the skull too) and bhati meaning 'shining, illuminating.' Due to the process, the organs in and under the skull mainly the brain, small brain and any of the spaces inside the head that are connected to the back of the nose (sinus) are influenced in a good manner. Hence the word is used in that way. It is intended mainly for cleaning the cranial sinuses but has many other effects including curing anemia, according to the Gherand Samhita and other sources. The Technique of Kapalabhati involves short and strong forceful exhalations and inhalation happens automatically.
There are three forms of Kapalabhati:
- Vatakrama kapalabhati, a practice similar to Bhastrika, a technique of Pranayama, except that exhalation is active while inhalation is passive, the opposite of normal breathing.
- Vyutkrama kapalabhati, a practice similar to Jala neti, it involves sniffing water through the nostrils and letting it flow down into the mouth and then spitting it out.
- Sheetkrama kapalabhati, can be considered the reverse of Vyutkrama kapalabhati, in which water is taken through the mouth and then expelled through the nose.
Sit comfortably and allow your eyes to close. Take a breath or two to settle in and notice the state of your mind. When you’re ready, inhale and then, for the entire length of your exhalation, make a low- to medium-pitched humming sound in the throat. Notice how the sound waves gently vibrate your tongue,
teeth, and sinuses. Imagine the sound is vibrating your entire brain (it really is). Do this practice for six rounds of breath and then, keeping your eyes closed, return to your normal breathing. Notice if anything has changed.
Once again, settle in for a breath or two to prepare. Now do six more cycles of basic bhramari. After your sixth round, switch to silent bhramari, in which you imagine making the buzzing sound on each exhalation. Do for six rounds. Notice whether you can still sense vibrations in your face and sinuses.
Bhramari with Shanmukhi Mudra
Sit up straight and place your hands on your face with one thumb on each tragus, the index fingers lightly touching the inner corners of your eyes, the middle fingers on the sides of the nose, the ring fingers above the lips, and the pinkies just below. Be sure to place only very light pressure on the eyeballs. Do six more rounds of low- to medium-pitched bhramari, lower your hands, and notice the effects. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or claustrophobia, you may not enjoy shanmukhi mudra and should probably skip it.
When you make a sound, it literally vibrates from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes, whether you can sense it or not. Different pitches vibrate at different frequencies. Bass notes and other low-pitched sounds vibrate slowly, whereas high-pitched sounds vibrate quickly, some at thousands of times per second.
Where the sound resonates—as well as the energetic effects of different pitches and volumes—can suggest which variations of bhramari will most likely help in specific situations.
•Insomnia. A quiet, low-pitched sound, perhaps with the addition of shanmukhi mudra, could be soothing to the nervous system and mind.
•Sinus infection or nasal congestion. A more forceful medium- to high-pitched sound might be a better choice to open the passageways.
•Thyroid problems. Try a medium-pitched sound and add jalandhara bandha (chin lock) to direct the sound waves to the throat.
•Stressed out. Use the silent variation, at work or in public, so no one around you knows what you’re doing.
Sitali and Sitkari
Two cooling pranayamas—sitali and sitkari—soothe emotions and quell a pitta imbalance, especially in the summer heat.
Are you irritated by the summer heat? Flushed with anger? Plagued by hot flashes? Long ago, the yogis discovered a cooling pranayama practice that can soothe you in the time it takes to drink a glass of water.
Deep in the Himalayas, ancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in the noble attempt to master body, breath, and mind. They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called sitali (the cooling breath). In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (alternately described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.
Sitali cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and soothes a pitta imbalance.
Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and, in the parlance of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, which is common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure.
How To Practice Sitali
•Sit in a comfortable position with the head, neck, and spine in alignment.
•Close your eyes, breathe diaphragmatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”
•Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch).
•Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
•Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
•Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.
Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and repeat the cooling breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Gradually you can work your way up to a 10-minute practice.
Can’t Curl Your Tongue? Try Sitkari
•Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
•Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.
•Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
•Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.
Repeat up to 20 times. This practice is called sitkari. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in addition to its cooling effects, sitkari balances the endocrine system and builds vitality.
Cautions for Sitali and Sitkari :
Because sitali and sitkari reduce body temperature, they are best practiced during hot weather or after a vigorous asana or heating pranayama practice (like bhastrika).
Many yoga teachers recommend that Prāṇāyāma techniques be practiced with care, and that advanced prāṇāyāma techniques should be practiced under the guidance of a teacher. For example, people with low blood pressure must perform it cautiously or may even have to avoid it. On the other hand pranayama may be helpful for someone with high blood pressure as the practice has been shown to lower resting blood pressure and heart rate. These cautions are also made in traditional Hindu literature. Pregnant women may have to forgo pranayama.
Exercises which incorporate the Valsalva maneuver, a moderately forceful attempt to exhale against a closed airway, usually done by closing one's mouth, pinching one's nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon, have been medically associated in emergency room practice with subcutaneous emphysema, development of pockets of air in the body outside the lungs, for example under the skin or in the abdomen.