Pranayama is ‘Ayama’ or freeing. Pranayama is a process that activates, and liberates Prana to a higher frequency.
According to Sage Patanjali, unless an individual goes through Yama and Niyama and practices Asanas on a regular basis, he or she cannot reach the fourth stage i.e. pranayama.
Out of about fifty types of Pranayama the important and effective nine are…
1. Surya Bheda Pranayama or right nostril breathing
Right nostril is Pingala Nadi, which represents body’s heating energy signified by Sun. Bhedana means passing through.
The breath through right nostril is important for improving the efficiency of digestive system and nervous system. It increases the body temperature, which removes the Kafa (mucus) imbalance. Right nostril breathing benefits in natural weight loss and it is also helpful for people in depression or anxiety.
2. Chandra Bheda Pranayama or left nostril breathing
In this the inhalation is done through the left nostril and exhalation through the right. The left nostril symbolizes our body’s cooling energy, signified by the Moon.
3. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing
This Pranayam is also known as Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama. It involves breathing alternately from each nostril. The process goes that the practitioner inhales through right and exhales through left then the same process is repeated starting from the other nostril. This way the Ida and Pingala nadis cleansed.
The benefits of Anuloma Viloma Pranayama are to create a balance between the physical and mental energy. According to Hatha Yoga principle the physical well-being goes down due to disproportion between Ida and Pingala. Anuloma Viloma pranayama balances these two energies.
4. Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi Pranayama is also known as victorious breath or ocean breath. This breathing exercise is performed through the nose and helps in regulating the body heat. The practitioner must direct the breath to the back of the throat while the muscles are constricted, like the constriction made when speaking in a whisper. At the same time the lips remain gently closed. This audible hissing sound is considered similar to the sound of the ocean. As the throat is considered the air speed is increased.
The benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama are to help get relief from headaches, sinus problems, phlegm, and supports the nervous and digestive systems.
5. Bhramari Pranayama
The exhalation in this breathing exercise sounds similar to the typical humming sound of a bee. This Pranayama is also known as Bee Breath, deriving its name from the black Indian bee, is the most popular breathing exercise to de-stress oneself. Bhramari Pranayama is a simple-to-do exercise that can be practiced anywhere.
This pranayama is also understood to be beneficial in reducing blood pressure and improving concentration.
6. Bahya Pranayama
This Pranayama is best done with empty stomach and known to provide cure for all abdominal problems such as constipation, heartburn etc., diabetes, urinary complications, prostate troubles, uterine prolapsed, blocked fallopian tubes, hernia and so on.
Bahya exercise is to be done after Kapalbhati (explained later) together they work in to complement each other’s benefits.
7. Udgeeth Pranayama
Ugeeth translates to singing with full energy. Udgeeth involves primeval reverberations to stir themental faculties. In this exercise the practitioner chants “OM” with each exhalation of about 20 seconds repeated thrice, and for the same reason it is also referred to as “Omkari Japa.” The sound of ‘O’ should be three times longer than the sound of ‘M’.
Udgeeth Pranayama is considered useful in cases of sleeping disorders like insomnia, stress, depression, disorientation and other issuespertaining nervous system and throat.
8. Sheetali Pranayama
Sheetali comes from “sheetal” meaning cool, calm or soothing. As the name suggests, Sheetali Pranayama soothes the practitioner. It is highly recommended for people living in stress or struggling with ulcers.
According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika, this pranayama benefits in reducing unnecessary body heat, diminishes the bile, fights the disorders of spleen and helps in fever and gives control over hunger and thirst. Sheetakari Pranayama is a form of Pranayama that is done in case the practitioner is unable to roll the tongue, as required in Sheetali form of Yoga.
9. Kapalbhati Pranayama
This is one of the Shatkarma or Shatkriya mentioned in the Gherand Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. “Kapal” means skull and the organs inside and “Bhati” is light or shining. Kapalbhati is said to boost the function of brain. This Pranayama is also known as ‘Bhalbhati’.
Kapabhati practitioners believe that it brings about a glow on the body. In this breathing kriya exercise, exhale with a jerk and inhale slowly with no special efforts. Among the many benefits, Kalpabhati cleans the respiratory channels, reducing infections and allergies at the same time.