Pranayama
The follwing textes are from the book asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha from Swami Satyananda Sarswati, Bihar school of yoga. You can have the full script  by downloading there apps online

ABDOMINAL BREATHING

Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is practised by enhancing the action of the diaphragm and minimising the action of the rib cage. .

During inhalation the diaphragm moves downward, pushing the abdominal contents downward and outward.

During exhalation the diaphragm moves upward and the abdominal contents move inward.

Movement of the diaphragm signifies that the lower lobes of the lungs are being utilised. The proper use of the diaphragm causes equal expansion of the alveoli, improves lymphatic drainage from basal parts of the lungs, massages the liver, stomach, intestines and other organs that lie immediately beneath it, exerts a positive effect on the cardiac functions and

coronary supply, and improves oxygenation of the blood and circulation.

Abdominal breathing is the most natural and efficient way to breathe. Due to tension, poor posture, restrictive clothing and lack of training, however, it is often forgotten. Once this

technique again becomes a part of daily life and correct breathing is restored, there will be a great improvement in the state of physical and mental wellbeing.

 

 

Abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing

Lie in shavasana and relax the whole body. Observe the spontaneous breath without controlling it in any way. Let it be absolutely natural. Continue observing the natural breath for some time. Place the right hand on the abdomen just above the navel and the left hand over the centre of the chest. The right hand will move up with inhalation and down

with exhalation. The left hand should not move with the breath.

There should be no tension in the abdomen. Do not try to force the movement in any way.

Try not to expand the chest or move the shoulders. Feel the abdomen expanding and contracting. Continue breathing slowly and deeply.

 

Thoracic breathing

Thoracic breathing utilises the middle lobes of the lungs by expanding and contracting the rib cage. It expends moreenergy than abdominal breathing for the same quantity of airexchange. It is often associated with physical exercise and exertion, as well as stress and tension, when it helps the body to obtain more oxygen. However, the tendency in many people is to continue this type of breathing long after the stressful situation has passed, creating bad breathing habits and continued tension.

Thoracic breathing

Sit in a meditation posture or lie in shavasana and relaxthe whole body.

Maintain unbroken awareness of the natural breath for some time, concentrating on the sides of the chest.

Discontinue any further use of the diaphragm and begin to inhale by slowly expanding the rib cage. Feel the movement of the individual ribs outward and upward, and be aware of this expansion drawing air into the lungs.

Expand the chest as much as possible. Exhale by relaxing the chest muscles. Feel the rib cage

contracting and forcing the air out of the lungs.

Breathe slowly and deeply through the chest with total awareness.

Do not use the diaphragm. Continue thoracic breathing for a few minutes, pausing slightly after each inhalation and exhalation.

 

CLAVICULAR BREATHING

Clavicular breathing is the final stage of total rib cage expansion. It occurs after the thoracic inhalation has been completed. In order to absorb a little more air into the lungs,

the upper ribs and the collar bone are pulled upwards by the muscles of the neck, throat and sternum. This requires maximum expansion on inhalation and only the upper lobes

of the lungs are ventilated. In daily life, clavicular breathing is only used under conditions of extreme physical exertion and when experiencing obstructive airway diseases such as asthma.

 

Clavicular breathing

Lie in shavasana and relax the whole body.

Perform thoracic breathing for a few minutes.

Inhale, fully expanding the rib cage.

When the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the base of the neck. The shoulders and collar

bone should also move up slightly.

This will take some effort.

Exhale slowly, first releasing the lower neck and upper chest, then relax the rest of the rib cage back to its starting position.

Continue for a few more breaths, observing the effect of this type of breathing.

 

YOGIC BREATHING

Yogic breathing combines the previous three techniques. It is used to maximise inhalation and exhalation. Its purpose is to gain control of the breath, correct poor breathing habits and

increase oxygen intake. It may be practised at any time and is especially useful in

situations of high stress or anger for calming the nerves. However, while its inclusion in a daily yoga programme will correct and deepen natural breathing patterns, yogic breathing

itself should not be performed continually.

 

Yogic breathing

Sit in a meditation posture or lie in shavasana and relax the whole body.

Inhale slowly and deeply, allowing the abdomen to expand fully.

Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound of the breath can be heard.

Feel the air reaching into the bottom of the lungs.

At the end of abdominal expansion, start to expand the chest outward and upward.

When the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the base of the neck. The shoulders and collar

bone should also move up slightly. Some tension will be felt in the neck muscles.

The rest of the body should be relaxed.

Feel the air filling the upper lobes of the lungs.

This completes one inhalation.

The whole process should be one continuous movement, each phase of breathing merging into the next without any obvious transition point. There should be no jerks or

unnecessary strain. The breathing should be like the swell of the sea.

Now start to exhale.

First, relax the lower neck and upper chest, then allow the chest to contract downward and then inward.

Next, allow the diaphragm to push upward and toward

the chest.

Without straining, try to empty the lungs as much as possible by drawing or pulling the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine.

The entire movement should be harmonious and flowing.

Hold the breath for a few seconds at the end of exhalation.

This completes one round of yogic breathing.

At first perform 5 to 10 rounds and slowly increase to 10 minutes daily.

 

Practice note: Yogic breathing is used in most pranayamas.

The main requirement, however, is that respiration be comfortable and relaxed. Consequently, once awareness and control of the breathing process has been established, the clavicular technique is dropped and yogic breathing is modified to become a combination of abdominal and thoracic breathing. The breath should flow naturally and not be forced.

 

NADI SHODHANA PRANAYAMA

 

Hand position: Nasagra Mudra (nosetip position)

Hold the fingers of the right hand in front of the face.

Rest the index and middle fingers gently on the eyebrowcentre. Both fingers should be relaxed.

The thumb is above the right nostril and the ring finger above the left. These two digits control the flow of breath in the nostrils by alternately pressing on one nostril,

blocking the flow of breath, and then the other.

The little finger is comfortably folded.

 

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (psychic network purification)

 

Technique I : Preparatory practice

Stage I : Sit in any comfortable meditation posture, preferablysiddha/siddha yoni asana or padmasana.

Keep the head and spine upright.

Relax the whole body and close the eyes.

Practise yogic breathing for some time.

 

Adopt nasagra mudra with the right hand and place the left hand on the knee in chin or jnana mudra.

Close the right nostril with the thumb.

Inhale and exhale through the left nostril 5 times.

 

The rate of inhalation/exhalation should be normal.

Be aware of each breath.

After completing 5 breaths, release the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril and press the left nostril with the ring finger, blocking the flow of air.

Inhale and exhale through the right nostril 5 times, keeping the respiration rate normal.

Lower the hand and breathe 5 times through both nostrils together.

This is one round.

 

Practise 5 rounds or for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure that there is no sound as the air passes through the nostrils.

Practise until this stage is mastered before commencing

the next stage.

 

Stage 2: Begin to control the duration of each breath.

Count the length of the inhalation and exhalation through

the left, right and both nostrils. Breathe deeply without

strain.

While inhaling, count mentally, "  Om1 ; Om2; Om3…Om10",

until the inhalation ends comfortably.

While exhaling, simultaneously count, Om1 ; Om2; Om3…Om10".

Inhalation and exhalation should be equal.

Practise 5 rounds or for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure that there is no sound as the air passes through the nostrils.

Extension: Notice that the length of the breath will spontaneously increase after some days of practice.

When the count reaches 1 0 without any strain, go on to

technique 2.

 

Contra-indications: Nadi shodhana is not to be practiced while suffering from colds, flu or fever.

 

Benefits: Technique 1 increases awareness of and sensitivity to the breath in the nostrils. Minor blockages are removed and the flow of breath in both nostrils becomes more balanced. Breathing through the left nostril tends to activate the right brain hemisphere; breathing through the right nostril activates the left hemisphere. The long, slow, balanced breathing of stage 2 has profound effects,

calming and balancing the energies.

 

Practice note: Both nostrils must be clear and flowing freely.

Mucous blockages may be removed through the practice

of neti (see the section Shatkarma). If the flow of breath in

the nostrils is unequal, it may be balanced by practising

padadhirasana .

 

Beginners should be familiar with abdominal breathing

before taking up nadi shodhana.

 

Technique 2: Alternate nostril breathing

 

In this technique the basic pattern of alternate nostril breathing is established.

Stage I : Begin with equal inhalation and exhalation, using the

ratio 1 : 1 .

Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril.

At the same time count mentally, Om1 ; Om2; Om3…Om10",

until the inhalation ends comfortably. This is the basic count.

Breathe deeply without strain.

Close the left nostril with the ring finger and release the pressure of the thumb on the right nostril. While exhaling through the right nostril, simultaneously count, " Om1 ; Om2; Om3…Om10",. The time for inhalation and exhalation

should be equal.

 

Next, inhale through the right nostril, keeping the same count in the same manner.

At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril and open the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril, counting as before.

This is one round.

Practise 5 to 1 0 rounds.

 

Extension : After one week, if there is no difficulty, increase

the length of inhalation/exhalation by one count.

Continue to increase the count in this way until the count

of 1 0: 1 0 is reached.

 

Do not force the breath in any way. Be careful not to speed up the counting during exhalation to compensate for shortage of breath. Reduce the count at the slightest sign of discomfort.

 

Stage 2: Ater perfecting the above 1 : 1 ratio, it may be changed to 1 : 2.

Initially halve the length of the inhalation. Inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 1 0.

Repeat on the other side.

This is one round.

Practise 5 to 1 0 rounds.

Extension: During the ensuing months of practice, continue

extending the breath by adding one count to the inhalation

and two to the exhalation, up to the count of 1 0: 20.

 

When this technique can be performed with complete ease, move on to technique 3 .

 

Contra-indications:  Stage 2 of technique 2 begins the processof introversion, which is not recommended for a depressed or withdrawn person. The extension of stage 2, involving longer counts, is not recommended for people with heart problems.

 

Benefits: Technique 2 gives more pronounced balancing of the breath and the brain hemispheres. It has calming effects and relieves anxiety, improves concentration and stimulates ajna chakra.

 

The ratio 1 : 1 in stage 1 establishes a calming rhythm for the brain and heart, assisting people with cardiovascular and nervous disorders specifically, and stress-related conditions generally. As the count is extended, the breath slows down. The

respiration becomes more efficient because the air flow is smoother and less turbulent. This ratio helps people with respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

 

The ratio 1 : 2 in stage 2 gives profound relaxation. The heartbeat and pulse rate slow, and blood pressure drops, but the extension of count should be built up slowly.

 

Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

In this technique antar kumbhaka or internal breath retention is introduced. The inhalation and exhalation should be silent, smooth and controlled.

 

Stage I : Begin with equal inhalation, inner retention and  exhalation, using the

ratio 1 : 1 : 1 .

Close the right nostril and inhale slowly through the left

nostril for a count of 5 . At the end of inhalation, close both nostrils and retain the

air in the lungs for a count of 5.

Open the right nostril and exhale for a count of 5 .

At the end of exhalation, inhale through the right nostril for a count of 5, keeping the left nostril closed.

Again, retain the breath for a count of 5 with both nostrils closed.

Open the left nostril and exhale for a count of 5 .

This is one round using the ratio 5:5 :5.

Maintain constant awareness of the count and of the breath.

Practise up to 1 0 rounds.

 

Extension: After becoming comfortable with the count of 5:5 :5,

the breath and kumbhaka can be lengthened. Gradually

increase the count by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 1

unit to the retention and 1 unit to the exhalation. The

count of one round will then be 6:6:6.

When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort,

increase the count to 7 : 7 : 7 .

Continue in this way until the count o f 1 0: 1 0: 1 0 i s reached.

Do not force the breath. At the slightest sign of strain

reduce the count.

 

Stage 2: After perfecting the ratio of 1:1:1 , increase the ratio

to 1 : 1 : 2 . Initially use a short count. Inhale for a count of 5, perform internal kumbhaka for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 10.

 

Extension : After mastering the count of 5 : 5 : 1 0, gradually increase the count by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 1 unit to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6:6:12 . When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, increase the count to 7 : 7 : 1 4. Gradually increase the count over several months of practice until the count of 1 0: 1 0: 20 is reached.

 

Stage 3: Change the ratio to 1 :2:2. Inhale for a count of 5, do internal kumbhaka for a count of 1 0 and exhale for a count of 1 0. Practise until the ratio is comfortable and

there is no tendency to speed up the count during retention or exhalation due to shortness of breath.

 

Extension : When this has been perfected, the count can be

gradually increased by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 2

units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The

count of one round will then be 6: 1 2 : 1 2. In this manner,

gradually increase the count to 1 0:20:20.

 

Stage 4: The next ratio, 1: 3:2, is intermediary. First reduce the count, inhale for a count of 5, do internal kumbhaka for a count of 1 5 and exhale for a count of 1 0.

Practise until the ratio is comfortable and there is no tendency to speed up the count during retention or exhalation due to shortness of breath.

 

Extension: When this has been perfected and there is no discomfort, the count can be gradually increased by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, 3 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6: 1 8: 1 2 . In this manner, gradually increase the count to 1 0:30:20.

 

Stage 5: The final ratio is 1 :4:2. Begin with 5: 20: 1 0. Once the ratio has been established, the count can gradually increase.

 

Extension: Add 1 unit to the inhalation, 4 units to the retention and 2 units to the exhalation. The count of one round will then be 6:24: 1 2. In this manner, gradually increase the count to 1 0 :40:20.

 

Contra-indications: Technique 3 is not suitable for women in the later half of pregnancy. It is not recommended for persons with heart problems, high blood pressure, emphysema or any major disorders.

Stage 2 is not recommended for asthmatics.

 

Benefits: The inner retention of breath, which characterizes technique 3, activates various brain centres and harmonizes the pranas. The benefits increase with the progression ofthe ratios. The ratio 1 :4:2 is most widely recommended in

the yogic texts. It gives profound psychological and pranic effects and is used as a preparation for kundalini awakening.

 

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

Before applying the bandhas in this practice, they should be perfected as individual practices. For details of these practices refer to the section Bandha.

When adding bandhas, reduce the ratio and count so that it is effortless. Extend the count gradually as previously instructed.

 

Jalandhara bandha: First practise jalandhara bandha with internal breath retention.

Inhale through the left nostril, hold the breath and practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention. Release jalandhara and exhale through the right nostril.

Inhale through the right nostril. Practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention.

Release jalandhara and exhale through the left nostril.

This is one round, practise 5 rounds.

 

Extensio n : Once the bandha can be held without strain, gradually build up the count.

Jalandhara and moola bandhas: Reduce the count and combine jalandhara bandha with moola bandha.

Inhale through the left nostril. Close both nostrils and hold the breath inside.

Practise jalandhara bandha and then moola bandha.

After the required count of retention, release moola bandha and then jalandhara.

Exhale through the right nostril.

Inhale through the right nostril and hold the breath inside.

Practise jalandhara bandha and moola bandha.

Release mool bandha and then jalandhara.

Exhale through the left nostril.

 

This is one round. Practise 5 rounds.

Extension : When the bandhas can be held without strain,

gradually build up the count and then the ratio.

Precaution: Do not practise pranayama with bandhas without

the guidance of a competent teacher or guru.

 

Benefits: The ratio 1 :4:2 with bandhas purifies and balances

the pranic forces.

 

Technique 4: Antar and Bahir Kumbhaka (internal and external

retention) In this technique bahir kumbhaka or outer breath retention is introduced. Do not try to hold the breath outside for long at first, even though it may seem easy.

 

Stage I : Begin with the ratio 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 and a count such as

5 :5 : 5 :5.

Inhale through the left nostril, counting to 5 .

Retain the breath i n antar kumbhaka, counting t o 5 .

Exhale through the right nostril, counting t o 5.

After exhalation, close both nostrils and hold the breath outside, counting to 5 .

 

The glottis may b e slightly contracted to hold the airoutside. Exhale slightly through the right nostril immediately before inhaling. This will release the lock on the

lungs and the glottis and bring the respiratory system smoothly back into operation.

Inhale slowly through the right nostril, counting to 5 .

Retain the breath, counting to 5.

Exhale through the left nostril, counting to 5 .

Again, hold the breath outside, counting t o 5 with both nostrils closed. If necessary, exhale slightly through the right nostril before breathing in at the start of the next round.

This is one round.

Practise 5 rounds.

 

Extension : When the ratio has been perfected at this count, gradually increase by adding 1 unit to the inhalation, internal retention, exhalation and external retention. The count should slowly be increased from 5 to 6, 6 to 7 and so

on, until the count of 1 0: 1 0: 1 0: 1 0 is reached.

Do not increase the count for inhalation until the counts for exhalation and breath retentions are comfortable.

 

Stage 2: The next ratio is 1 : 1 : 2 : 1 . It should be commenced

with a low count and extended gradually as previously

instructed. Begin with 5 : 5 : 1 0:5.

 

Extension : Once the ratio has been established, the count can be gradually increased. Add one unit to the inhalation, one unit to the internal retention, 2 units to the exhalation and one unit to the external retention. The count for one round would thus become 6:6: 1 2:6. Over time, the count can be slowly increased. Do not increase the count for inhalation until the relative counts for exhalation and breath retentions are comfortable.

 

Stage 3: The next ratio is 1 : 2 : 2 : 1 . Begin with the count of 5 : 1 0 : 1 0 :5. Do not increase the count for inhalation until the relative counts for exhalation and breath retentions are comfortable.

 

Stage 4: The next ratio is 1 : 2 : 2 : 2 . Begin with the count of 5 : 1 0: 1 0: 1 0. Build up the count gradually without strain. Stage 5: The next ratio is 1 : 3 : 2 : 2 . Begin with the count of 5: 1 5 : 1 0: 1 0. Each time the ratio is changed, use the same care to start with a low count, which is allowed to build up gradually without strain.

 

Stage 6: The final ratio is 1 :4 : 2 : 2 . Begin with the count of

5 : 20: 1 0 : 1 0.

 

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

When technique 4 has been mastered, it may be practiced in conjunction with jalandhara, moola and uddiyana bandhas.

First practise jalandhara bandha with internal breath retention only. When this has been perfected, combine jalandhara bandha with external breath retention also.

When this has been mastered, combine jalandhara and moola bandha with internal and external retention.

 

When this has been perfected, maha bandha can be added during external retention. At the end of the exhalation, practise jalandhara, moola and uddiyana bandhas. Maintain the bandhas throughout the external retention.

Release jalandhara, moola and uddiyana, in this order, at the end of external retention.

Finally, when this has been perfected, maha bandha can be added during both internal and external retention.

Adjust the ratio of the breath to suit individual capacity.

 

Breathing: Breathing should be silent in all techniques of nadi shodhana, ensuring that it is not forced or restricted In any way.

As the ratio and duration increases, the breath becomes very light and subtle. Increased ratios and breath duration should not be attained at the expense of relaxation, rhythm and awareness. The flow of breath must be smooth, with no jerks, throughout the practice.

 

Awareness:

Physical - on the breath and the counting.

Mental - it is easy for the mind to wander during nadi shodhana. Simply be aware of this wandering tendency of the mind while continuing the practice and the count.

This will automatically encourage the awareness to return to the practice.

Spiritual - on ajna chakra.

 

Precautions: Under no circumstance should the breath beforced. Never breathe through the mouth. Proceed carefully and only under the guidance of a competent teacher.

 

At the slightest sign of discomfort, reduce the duration of inhalation/exhalation/retention and, if necessary, discontinue the practice. Nadi shodhana should never be rushed or forced.

 

Sequence: If one of the nostrils is blocked, perform jala neti or breath balancing exercises before commencing.

Nadi shodhana should be practised after shatkarma and asanas, and before other pranayamas. The best time to practise is around sunrise; however, it may be performed at any time during the day, except after meals.

 

Duration: 5 to 10 rounds or 10 to 15 minutes daily.

Benefits: Nadi shodhana ensures that the whole body is nourished by an extra supply of oxygen. Carbon dioxide is efficiently expelled and the blood is purified of toxins.

The brain centres are stimulated to work nearer to their optimum capacity. It also induces tranquillity, clarity of thought and concentration, and is recommended for those engaged in mental work. It increases vitality and lowers levels of stress and anxiety by harmonizing the pranas. Itclears pranic blockages and balances ida and pingala nadis, causing sushumna nadi to flow, which leads to deep states

of meditation and spiritual awakening.

 

Practice note: Development of nadi shodhana is intended to take place over a long period of time. Each technique should be practised until perfected. Developing the ratios and counts in each technique may take many years.

Each time the ratio is changed, start with a low count and build up gradually without strain. Practise a given ratio until perfected. The length of the breath should increase

spontaneously without the use of force. The point is not how long the breath can be held, but rather to give the mind, body and lifestyle time to adapt to psychic and physical repercussions.

 

Techniques 1 and 2 prepare the lungs and the nervous system for techniques 3 and 4, which introduce antar and bahir kumbhaka (internal and external breath retention).

Mastery of the techniques should take time as the body and mind need to adjust to the effects of extended breath retention. The full benefits of this practice will be obtained by systematically perfecting each level, rather than by struggling prematurely with the advanced techniques.

 

It is important to experience each stage fully and become established in that new pattern of breath and its effects on the nervous system, energy levels, emotions, mental clarity and subtle aspects of the personality.

 

Note : The word nadi means 'channel' or 'flow ' of energy and shodhana means 'purification'. Nadi shodhana, therefore, means that practice which purifies the nadis.

The number 24, used for timing the breath, derives from classical texts, which use the Gayatri mantra as a metre to measure the length of pranayamas. The

KAPALBHATI PRANAYAMA

Kapalbhati Pranayama (frontal brain cleansing breath)

 

Technique I: Preparatory practice (shatkarma method)

Sit in a comfortable meditation asana. The head and spine should be straight with the hands resting on the knees in either chin or jnana mudra.

Close the eyes and relax the whole body.

Exhale through both nostrils with a forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles. The following inhalation should take place passively by allowing the abdominal muscles torelax.

Inhalation should be a spontaneous recoil, involving noeffort.

After completing 1 0 rapid breaths in succession, inhale and exhale deeply. Allow the breath to return to normal.

This is one round. Practise up to 5 rounds.

Breathing: The rapid breathing should be from the abdomen; the shoulders and face remain relaxed.

Beginners may take several free breaths between rounds.

The number of respirations may be increased from the initial count of 1 0 up to 50, as the abdominal muscles become stronger. Advanced practitioners can increase up to 60 or 100 breaths per round.

 

Sequence : As a shatkarma to clear excess mucus from the

nasal passages, kapalbhati should be practised before pranayama.

Precautions: Kapalbhati should be performed on an empty

stomach, 3 to 4 hours after meals. If practised late at night,

it can prevent sleep.

If pain or dizziness are experienced, stop the practice and sit quietly for some time. Practise with more awareness and less force. If the problem continues, consult a competent teacher.

Contra-indications: Kapalbhati should not be practised by those suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, vertigo, epilepsy, stroke, hernia or gastric ulcer. It is not recommended during pregnancy.

Benefits: Kapalbhati has a cleansing effect on the lungs and is a good practice for respiratory disorders. It balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones the digestive organs. It purifies the nadis, and removes sensory distractions.

It energizes the mind for mental work and removes sleepiness.

Practice note: Although kapalbhati is similar to bhastrika, there are important differences. Bhastrika uses force on both inhalation and exhalation, expanding and contracting the lungs above and below their resting or basic volume.

Kapalbhati, on the other hand, actively reduces the volume of air in the lungs below this level through forced exhalation.

In this practice, inhalation remains a passive process, which brings the level of air in the lungs back to the basic volume only. Kapalbhati reverses the normal breathing process, which involves active inhalation and passive exhalation.

It has profound effects on the nervous system.

 

Technique 2: Alternate nostrils

Sit in a comfortable meditation asana, preferably padmasana, or siddha/siddha yoni asana.

Raise the right hand and perform nasagra mudra.

Left nostril: Close the right nostril with the thumb.

Exhale forcefully and inhale passively through the left nostril l 0 times. The pumping action should be performed by the abdomen alone; the chest, shoulders and face remain relaxed.

After the 1 0 breaths, take a deep breath in and out through the left nostril.

Right nostril: Close the left nostril and repeat the same process through the right nostril.

Both nostrils: Replace the raised hand on the knee.

Repeat the same process through both nostrils.

Duration : Ten breaths through the left, the right and both

nostrils forms one complete round.

Practise up to 5 rounds.

 

Breathing: Beginners may take several free breaths between rounds. The number of respirations may be gradually increased from 10 up to 50, as the abdominal muscles become stronger.

 

Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

After perfecting technique 2, antar kumbhaka may be commenced.

At the end of the round, inhale deeply and retain the breath for a comfortable length of time without straining.

Exhale slowly with control. Practise up to 5 rounds.

Sequence: Practise just before meditation techniques.

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

Before applying bandhas in this practice, they should first be perfected as individual practices. After antar kumbhaka has been mastered, jalandhara and moola bandhas may be combined during internal retention.

At the end of each round, inhale deeply. Practise jalandhara bandha and then moola bandha during internal retention. Hold the breath inside without straining.

After the required count of retention, release moola bandha, jalandhara bandha, and then exhale.

Precaution: Do not practise with bandhas without seeking the guidance of a competent teacher.

Contra-indications: Contra-indications for jalandhara and moola bandhas apply, as well as for kapalbhati technique 1 .

Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention)

After perfecting technique 3, bahir kumbhaka may be commenced.

At the end of the round, inhale deeply and retain the breath for a comfortable length of time. Exhale slowly.

Retain the breath outside for a comfortable length of time.

 

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

After perfecting maha bandha as an independent practice, it can be incorporated into the practice of kapalbhati during external retention.

After completing one round, inhale deeply and retain the

 breath inside for a few seconds.

Exhale completely and practise maha bandha.

Retain the bandha, and the breath outside for a comfortable length of time without straining.

Release maha bandha and inhale.

Maintain awareness of the eyebrow centre, feeling an allpervading calmness.

Duration : Up to 5 rounds.

Experienced practitioners can gradually increase the number of respirations to 60, and slowly increase the duration of external retention up to 30 seconds.

Further rounds should be practised only under the guidance of a competent teacher. Do not strain.

 

Awareness: Physical - on rhythmic, forceful exhalation.

Spiritual - on the void at the eyebrow centre.

 

Precaution: Proceed slowly with awareness of the effects of the practice. Build up the number ofbreaths, number of rounds and length of retention gradually. Do not strain by practicing for extended periods. If breathlessness is experienced, discontinue the practice or reduce the number of rounds

to a comfortable level.

 

Contra-indications: The contra-indications for maha bandha apply, as well as those for kapalbhati technique 1 .

 

Benefits: This practice is useful for spiritual aspirants as it arrests thoughts and visions. It calms the mind in preparation for meditation. At the same time, it energizes the mind so one is not overcome by sleep while sitting for meditation.

Practice note: If the inhalation seems locked after external retention in maha bandha, a slight exhalation before inhalation relieves the locked condition of the glottis and brings the respiratory muscles back into action.

 

Note: The Sanskrit word kapal means 'cranium' or 'forehead' and bhati means 'light' or 'splendour' and also 'perception' or 'knowledge'.

Hence kapalbhati is the practice which brings a state of

light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Another name

for this practice is kapalshodhana, the word shodhana meaning

'to purify'.

 
Bhramari Pranayama (humming bee breath)
 

Technique I

Sit in a comfortable meditation asana, preferably padmasana or siddha/siddha yoni asana with the hands resting on the knees in joana or chin mudra.

Close the eyes and relax the whole body.

The lips should remain gently closed with the teeth slightly separated throughout the practice. This allows the sound vibration to be heard and felt more distinctly.

Raise the arms sideways and bend the elbows, bringing the hands to the ears. Use the index or middle finger to plug the ears or the flaps of the ears may be pressed withoutinserting the fingers.

Bring the awareness to the centre of the head, where ajna chakra is located, and keep the body absolutely still.

Inhale through the nose.

Exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep, steady humming sound like that of the black bee.

The humming should be smooth, even and continuous for the duration of the exhalation. The sound should be softand mellow, making the front of the skull reverberate.

At the end of exhalation, the hands can be kept steady or returned to the knee and then raised again for the next round. The inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and controlled. This is one round

Ujjayi Pranayama (the psychic breath)

Technique I

Sit in any comfortable meditation asana.

Close the eyes and relax the whole body.

Take the awareness to the breath in the nostrils and allow the breathing to become calm and rhythmic.

After some time, transfer the awareness to the throat. Feel or imagine that the breath is being drawn in and out through the throat and not through the nostrils, as if it is taking place through a small hole in the throat.

As the breathing becomes slower and deeper, gently contract the glottis so that a soft snoring sound, like the breathing of a sleeping baby, is produced in the throat.

Both inhalation and exhalation should be long, deep and controlled.

Practise yogic breathing while concentrating on the sound produced by the breath in the throat.

The sound of the breath should be audible to the practitioner alone.

 

Extension :

When this breathing has been mastered, fold the

tongue back into khechari mudra If the tongue becomes tired, release it, while continuing the ujjayi breathing.

When the tongue is rested, again fold it back.

 

Duration :

Begin with 1 0 breaths and slowly increase to 5 minutes for general benefits.

As an adjunct to meditation or mantra repetition, practise

for 1 0 to 20 minutes.

 

Contra-indications: People who are too introverted by nature

should not perform this practice.

 

Benefits:

Ujjayi is classified as a tranquillizing pranayama and it also has a heating effect on the body. This practice soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. It has a

profoundly relaxing effect at the psychic level. It helps to relieve insomnia and may be practised in shavasana just before sleep. It slows down the heart rate and is useful for people suffering from high blood pressure.

 

Practice note:

Ujjayi may be performed in any position, standing, sitting or lying. Those suffering from slipped disc or vertebral spondylitis may practise ujjayi in vajrasana or

makarasana.

Relax the face as much as possible. Do not contract the

throat too strongly. The contraction should be slight and applied continuously throughout the practice.

 

Technique 2:with Antar Kumbhaka (inner retention)

The inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and controlled.

Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose.

Retain the breath inside with awareness at ajna or hindu.

The exhalation should be as long as is comfortable. Do not strain when performing kumbhaka; one or two seconds is sufficient at first. The duration may be increased gradually as the technique is mastered.

 

Contra-indications:

Those suffering from heart disease should not combine bandhas or breath retention with ujjayi

 

Practice note:

Inner retention should be gradually increased as it helps in increasing introversion and concentration.

 

Advanced practice: (addition of bandhas)

Before applying the bandhas in this practice, they should be perfected as individual practices. For details of these practices refer to the section Bandha.

Once antar kumbhaka has been mastered, bandhas may be incorporated.

Jalandhara bandha:

Inhale for a long, smooth breath.

Practise jalandhara bandha with internal retention for a comfortable duration.

Release jalandhara and exhale.

This is one round.

Jalandhara and moola bandhas:

Inhale. Practise jalandhara

and then moola bandha, holding the breath inside for a

comfortable duration.

Release moola bandha and then jalandhara and exhale.

This is one round. Once the bandha can be held without strain, gradually build up the number of rounds.

Precaution:

Do not practise pranayama with bandhas without

the guidance of a competent teacher or guru.

 

Contra-indications:

 Those suffering from heart disease should not combine bandhas or breath retention with ujjayi.

 

Note:

The Sanskrit word ujjayi means 'victorious'. It is derived from the root ji, which means 'to conquer' or 'to acquire by conquest', and the prefix ud, which means 'bondage'. Ujjayi is therefore the pranayama which gives freedom from bondage. It is also known as the psychic breath, as  it leads to subtle states of mind and is used together with khechari mudra, the tongue lock, in tantric

meditation techniques such as mantra japa, ajapa japa, kriya

yoga and prana vidya.

 

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