Pranayama – We have studied yama, niyama and asana described by Maharishi Patanjali in Yog Sutra. According to Ashtang yoga, Pranayama is the fourth component. Here you must have to understand that after getting expertise in asanas one should start practice of Pranayam and this is described in all yogic scriptures. Ordinarily, every human being breathes from birth to death, unceasingly. But the question arises, how the breathing process of a common man is different from the one who is practising Pranayama?
So first, we should be aware about the normal breathing pattern properly. Pranayama is the only connecting link between body and mind. Patanjali, in his text of yog Sutra, mentioned Pranayama as means of attaining higher states of awareness.
The word ‘Pranayama’ implies control on pranas i.e., to attain control on breathing. In this lesson, we will learn about different types of breathing, how to control breathing, the types of Pranayam and how it affects our body, mind and soul.
Table of Contents
- Pranayama Yoga Breathing Practices Modulate the Mind-Body Connection
- Introduction of Pranayama
- PRANAYAM AND ITS IMPORTANCE
- VARIOUS METHODS OF PRACTICE OF PRANAYAMS BREATHING PATTERNS
- THE POWER OF PAUSE DURING INHALATION AND EXHALATION in Pranayama
- Scriptural Reference about Pranayama
- PRE-PRANAYAMA PRACTICES
Pranayama Yoga Breathing Practices Modulate the Mind-Body Connection
Abstract: Pranayama can regulate the motion of the lungs, which controls the heart and vagus nerve. In Pranayama, there is regulation of inhalation and exhalation,which is accomplished by eliminating the pause between inhalation and exhalation or expending it by retention. The science of pranayama breathing is thus intimately connected with the autonomic nervous system and brings its functions under conscious control via breathing practices and movements of the diaphragm and lungs. The nasal tissue is erectile and is very sensitive to breathing.
Control of breath constitutes an obvious starting point toward attainment of control of autonomic nervous system. It appears to have beneficial effects on the functions of omental adipocytes, brain, heart, lungs, liver, and kidney functions. The left nostril, diaphragm, and stomach are supplied by the vagus nerve. Clinical studies conducted in Italy have shown that verbalization of mantras (i.e., om-mani-padme-om) can decrease the breathing rate, due to increased vagal activity, resulting into increased nitric oxide release when the breathing rate is brought down to less than six breaths per minute.
It is possible that manipulations of the left nostril via breath may influence pituitary function, hypothalamus, pineal gland and suprachiasmatic nucleus. Further studies are necessary to establish the role of pranayam breathing practices in the management of diseases.Keywords: Lung diseases, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthama, allergy, sinusitis
Introduction of Pranayama
Pranayama methods, which are various types of breathing exercises, have been used by saints living in caves for the prevention of diseases and long-term survival from the ancient period, under natural circumstances. It has been proposed by Patanjali, (600 BCE), the codifier of yoga science that the control of prana (mind) is possible by regulation of inhalation and exhalation. This is accomplished by eliminating the pause between inhalation and exhalation or expending it by retention.
It regulates the motion of the lungs, resulting into control of heart and vagus nerve. In a more recent study, transcendental meditation has been reported to provide beneficial effect on blood pressure and insulin resistance components of the metabolic syndrome (1). In several studies, breathing practices have been found to have protective effects (2-18). In one clinical observation among 201 subjects aged 15-75 years, suffering from nasobronchial allergies, regular practice of anulome and velome as well as kapalbhati for 3 months was associated with significant improvement in clinical outcome (15).
Regular practice of pranayam may have beneficial effects on nasobronchial disorders like chronic bronchitis, asthma, rhinitis, and common cold, pharyngitis, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, vascular variability disorders, insulin resistance, heart attacks, allergies, memory dysfunction, and aging. The nasal tissue is erectile similar to sex organs in men and women, which is very sensitive to breath. Control of breath constitutes an obvious starting point toward attainment of control of the autonomic nervous system, and appears to have beneficial effects on the functions of nasal mucosa, pharynx, bronchi, bronchioles, and lungs.
These breathing patterns may also benefit the omental adipocytes, brain, heart, liver, and kidney functions. The left nostril, diaphragm, and stomach are supplied by the vagus nerve, which may influence pituitary function, the hypothalamus, the pineal gland, and the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The science of pranayama is thus intimately connected with the autonomic nervous system and brings its functions under conscious control via breathing patterns and movements of diaphragm and lungs (15-17). ).
In a few subjects, we have observed that verbalization of Rama,Rama,Rama, for 20-60 minutes, may be associated with increased heart rate variability. The possible indications of pranayamas are given in table 1. A clinical study conducted in Italy has shown that verbalization of mantras like Oem mani padme oem can decrease the breathing rate, as well as heart rate, due to increased vagal activity, resulting into increased release of nitric oxide, when the breathing rate is brought down to six per minute.
PRANAYAM AND ITS IMPORTANCE
The word Pranayam has two Sanskrit roots – ‘Prana’ and ‘ayam’. “Prana” means vital energy and life force. “Ayam” means stretching, extension or expansion or control. Thus, we can say that the word Pranayam means extension or expansion of Prana or ‘breath control’ to extend and overcome one’s normal limitation of Prana. Therefore, it should not merely be considered as a breathing technique to provide extra oxygen into the lungs.
It influences the flow of Prana in the Nadis of the Pranamay kosha. Controlling Prana through Pranayam steadies the mind and cleanses the body, thus it boosts the overall health and well-being of the practitioner. Thus, the technique of Pranayam provides a method by which the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one’s normal limitations and attain a higher state of experiences.
VARIOUS METHODS OF PRACTICE OF PRANAYAMS BREATHING PATTERNS
The methods of pranayamas breathing patterns are given in table 1. Both kapalbhati and anulome and velome breathing patterns, have become very popular because of their demonstration and training by Swami Ramdeo, who is an internationally renouned practioner of yagasans and pranayam. These patterns should be conducted preferably on an empty stomach for maximum beneficial effects.
The chronomics of pranayam practice are not known but Indians prefer to practice early in the morning before sun rise and alternatively after sun set.Pranayams could be practiced either on a bed or while sitting on a chair. Sit straight and do not move the shoulders or neck and do not make any noise during breathing. Close both the eyes and concentrate on inspiration and expiration, alternately from each nostril, starting from left nostril.
All the steps of breathing, “in and out” should be performed very gently without any strain for 100-150 times daily (minimum) in about 10 minutes. Exhale or expire the breath forcefully by moving diaphragm and abdominal muscles during expiration. During expiration, the muscle of the abdomen moves inside, and during inspiration the abdomen moves up with the movements of the diaphragm. Practice gently, about 400-500 times daily (minimum) in about 20 minutes. Having control on pause is called the pranayama ( Patanjali, 600 BCE).
Various methods of Pranayama or breathing exercises.(Patanjali yoga)
|Narishodhanam||Three cycles of exhalation through the left nostril and inhalation through right nostril followed by three cycles of exhalation through the right nostril and inhalation through the left, both should be of equal duration.|
|Kapalbhati||Vigorous and forceful expulsion of breath, using the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. It is followed by a relaxation of the abdominal muscles, resulting in a slow passive inhalation.|
|Bhastrika||It means bellows, in which abdominal muscles work like bellows. Here both inhalation and exhalation are vigorous and forceful. The effects are similar to kapalbhati and complication could be hyperventilation.|
|Ujjayi||It means control of victory, arising from a process of expansion, enhancing the ventilation of the lungs. Inhalation and exhalation are slow and deep and take place with partial closure of glottis. It removes the expectoration, calms the sympathetic activity and fills the whole body with wellness.|
|Bhramari||It means a large bee and the sound of a bee is made, during exhalation. Inhale|
completely through both nostrils and exhale producing a humming sound
|Sitali||The tongue is curled lengthwise until it resembles a tube. The tip of the tongue|
is protruded outside the lips. A hissing sound is produced during inhalation.
Exhale completely with both nostrils
|Sitkari||The tongue is rolled back towards the soft palate and lips part and clench the|
teeth. Now inhale through the teeth, making a hissing sound with breath.
Exhale completely through both nostrils
|Suryabhedana||The breath is inhaled through the right nostril, retained then exhaled, through|
|Murccha||There is complete inhalation via both nostrils followed by slow exhalation,|
applying chin lock
|Plavini||The stomach is first filled completely with air and simultaneously the lungs are|
also filled completely with air by air. The breath is retained and then finally
exhaled. It is an advanced mode of pranayam.
|Take deep inspiration from slowly from left nose followed by a pause of few seconds, then do complete expiration from the other nostril, while one nostril is closed by the thumb.|
THE POWER OF PAUSE DURING INHALATION AND EXHALATION in Pranayama
To control, eliminate, and expand the pause during breathing, is the main process in doing pranayama. In Sanskrit, the pause is called kumbhaka, which is controlled by all the breathing exercises. Hath yoga manual, mention eight varieties of kumbhaka, which are practiced by highly adapted yogis, who know the secrets of the nature of the pause. These should be practiced under guidance of experienced yogis.
These practices can take us to deeper states of the mind resulting in to autonomic control heart beat and brain waves via electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic studies respectively. Kumbhaka is the pause during the breath. It should be practiced under supervision of an expert, not by reading manuals. It is important to apply bandhas before practicing kumbhakas. Bandhas are locks, which may be of different types; jalandhara bandha-the chin lock, uddiyana bandha-the abdominal lock, and mulabandha-the anal lock.
Chin Lock (Jalandhara bandha)
Internal carotid arteries, situated on both sides of the neck, that are responsible for blood supply of the brain. If the chin lock is used to apply conscious pressure to these arteries, the nerve impulses traveling to the brain fade the body consciousness and bring about a trance like condition. Such stimulation is associated with decrease in heart rate and conscious control of vijnani nadi, the channel of consciousness.
It has been mentioned in sivasamhita that by the application of pressure on the carotid sinus nerves, a blissful state of mind may be experienced. If the chin lock is practiced both during inhalation and exhalation, the control of the channel of consciousness or vijnani nadi turns easy. Long practice for years may be needed to control chin lock. After deep inhalation, the air in the lungs wants to rush out if the chin lock is not applied, after the retention of the breath, despite the glottis being kept closed. The air rushes through the auditory tubes resulting in manipulations in the ears—in the inner ear. It is possible that such manipulations by chin
lock in the inner ear could be useful for the treatment of ear disorders. The chin lock is properly applied after closing the glottis, for easy practice of kumbhaka. Practice of jalandhara bandha, yogis bring about conscious control of this phenomenon and thus attain a state of joy before doing meditation. Putting pressure on the carotid arteries may provide yogic anesthesia to the person for minor surgery. The martial art experts, in the schools of Kung Fu also use this technique whenever necessary.
Abdominal Lift (Uddiyana bandha)
This is an exercise involving the diaphragm, ribs and the abdominal muscles. It can be practiced either in standing or sitting in one of meditation postures. If it is practiced in standing position, the feet are kept two feet apart and spine straight, then the knees are bend slightly and lean forward from the waist far enough to place the palms of the hands just above the knees.
After achieving this posture, exhale completely and place the chin on the hollow of the throat, then suck the abdominal muscles in and up without inhaling, pulling the novel toward the spine. These procedures pull the diaphragm up and create a cavity in the front side of the abdomen under the rib cage. There would be slight curving in the back and this position is maintained as long as it remains comfortable and tolerable.
Now slowly inhale and relax. It is important not to force the abdominal muscles outward. The use of force should be gentle, pulling the muscles in and upward. Contraindications for not practicing this exercise are hypertension, hiatal hernia, ulcers, heart diseases, menstruation, or pregnancy. This exercise is the best for disease of the abdominal organs.
Anus Lock (mulabandha)
In this exercise both the internal or external muscles of the sphincters of the anus are contracted and then held. This anal lock may be practiced during pranayama and meditation.
Scriptural Reference about Pranayama
Pranayam is an important part of yog practices and is mentioned in almost all texts in yog. Maharishi Patanjali defines it as –
“Tasminsate swaspraswasiryorgativichchhedah pranayama”
Which means, after getting expertise in asana there has to be regulation or restraint of speed of swas (inhalation) – praswas (exhalation) is called as Pranayam.
“Chale vate chale chittam, nischalam nischale bhavet Yogisthanutyamapnoti tato vayum nirodhayet”
“When Prana fluctuates then the Chitta (mind) also fluctuates; when the Prana becomes steady then the Chitta also becomes steady”.
So we should try to control Prana. It means Pranayama practices are intended to bring about calmness in the mind by harmonizing the Pranic flow in the body.
We see warning in one Shloka in Hath Yog Pradipika (Ch 2.16). i.e.,
“Pranayam can remove all diseases if it is done correctly; if it is done incorrectly then it can actually cause illness”
This is the indication about Pranayam. It is a very advance practice, so one should slowly and systematically develop one’s ability to perform Pranayam techniques over a period of time under the guidance of an expert.
Let us know about Pre –Pranayama Practices:
The process of Pranayam is concerned with the breathing which is an indicator of life. So, if it is done in a wrong manner, it may harm us as we have just studied. Therefore, it needs some preparations. As we know that Pranayam is advanced yogic technique. A sound and healthy body is a must for the practice of Pranayam. In the last topic, we have discussed about Prana, Pranayam and its impact on our life. Now we will learn about pre Pranayam practices i.e. about the preparation
technique of Pranayam practices