Pranayama ‘breathing exercises’ have been evolved in the traditional Indian yogic practices in order to attain wellness of body and mind. One of the important pranayamas is the Bahya Pranayama. The literal meaning of ‘Bahya’ or ‘Baahya’ is ‘external’, which is indicative of prominence of exhalation of breath in this pranayama.
Humans can exhale out 70% of body toxins/spent energy through diaphragmatic breathing.
In this breathing exercise, the muscles and organs of the stomach ‘diaphragm’ are exercised which makes it a good pranayama for improving digestion and easing out of excreta smoothly. However, one must know the correct way of practicing it and also the contraindications or precautions to be observed during it.
This is one of the best yogic pranayama for the stomach related ailments and shall be practiced empty stomach early in the morning. Regularity of the practice is important and the improvements will begin to come as the practice becomes more accomplished. This also builds up strength and stamina.
Steps to Bahaya practice
The Bahya Pranayama can be practiced correctly by following these steps…
1/5. Sit comfortably on the floor or any flat surface either in Padmasana or Sukhasana, in cross-legged position. Keep the spine straight, without any stress and forward or backward bulges.
If one can not sit on the ground, one can practice the same while sitting on the chair.
2/5. Post the Inhalation, exhalation shall be done in through the nostrils and all the air shall be totally exhaled, to the extent that you do not feel there is air in lungs or stomach.
After complete exhalation, draw your stomach inwards and pull it upwards so as to cause stretch and compression in the stomach muscles. The bottom contours of rib-cage would be visible at this stage. This is same as the practice of Uddayan bandh.
3/5. Hold the breath in this position. Get into the chin-lock or the Jalandhara Bandh. This lock can be attained by dropping the chin and allowing it to touch the centre of collar-bone below the throat.
The breath shall be held to the extent that it can be done comfortably.
4/5. Release the lock by bringing the neck back to normal position. Release the stomach from the inward and upward pull and inhale again. Take a few normal breaths till you are comfortable again.
5/5. Repeat the cycle: Inhalation-exhalation-pulling of stomach inward and upward-applying chin-lock- releasing the lock and stomach-inhalation.
Time duration of the Pranayama
As is the case with other pranayama, there is no strict timeline for practicing this pranayama. One can do it at one’s own pace. However, to gain benefits of this pranayama, this shall be practiced for at least 6-10 cycles.
The beginners might take longer time to practice it correctly. However, with each passing day, the proficiency will be attained. So, if you do not do it all that well in first few attempts, give it time of a few weeks to do it perfectly.
The best time to this pranayama is in morning when you are empty stomach.
Benefits of Bahya Pranayama
Bahya pranayama involves contraction of the abdominal muscles and holding of the breath after exhaling it. This is exercise for the abdominal organs. Therefore, many common ailments associated with the stomach or the organs can be ridden off by doing this pranayama. Some of its important advantages are listed here.
1/7. Relieves constipation
By regular practice of this breathing exercise, the excreta is eased out from the body. It exercises the prostate glands as well as liver and kidneys. The pull inwards also exercises the intestines. So, the food after getting digested is eased out of the body. With normal excreta flows, there is new vitality in body.
2/7. Stimulates good digestion
The digestion of the food directly depends on the metabolism of the body and for regulating the metabolism of the body one shall exercise regularly. This pranayama provides this stimulation to enhance and improve the metabolism of the body.
3/7. Relieves acidity and gas problem
As it helps enormously in case of stomach related issues, the problem of acidity, gassiness, bloating, heartburn and others can be taken care of to a good extent with Bahya breathing.
4/7. Helps in maintaining reproductive health
This breathing technique is also useful in maintaining the reproductive health of the person. Any minor ailment or disorder of the reproductive organs can be treated or at least ameliorated with Bahya pranayama.
5/7. Prevents urinary problem
With proper expulsion of excreta and massaging of the organs, it helps in prevention and, to some extent, curing of the urinary or sperm related problems.
6/7. Improves mindfulness
By holding the breath after pulling the stomach inwards, you not only practice retention but also draw your attention inward in order to practice it for the longest period of time. With improved focus due to mindfulness, the mental health is promoted as mind becomes more peaceful and is distressed. It becomes good at organising things and one is able to handle things more efficiently, effectively and with greater equanimity.
7/7. Helpful in diabetes
Due to the ability of this asana to improve metabolism and vitality right at the cellular level, this is one of the best pranayama for high blood sugar patients. As it also promoted digestion and mental de-stressing, the sugar levels get reduced over a period of time and normal levels are retained.
Precautions and Contraindications
The precautions to be taken by the people while doing this pranayama are…
1/6. People having ailment of heart or blood pressure shall avoid doing it.
2/6. Women who are in their periods or are expectant mothers shall also avoid doing this pranayama because it involves contraction of stomach muscles.
3/6. People having any special condition associated with stomach or organs shall avoid doing this pranayama or at least prior consultation with an expert should be done.
4/6. People who have undergone any surgery or are suffering from hernia shall avoid doing it till their doctors say it is safe for them to practice it.
5/6. This pranayama shall be done on empty stomach and this is best done after the Kapalbhati pranayama.
6/6. In case there is a problem with the neck or you are having back pain, then you shall avoid doing the chin-lock during the process of this pranayama.