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Kapalbhati Pranayama Steps and Benefits
by Sushant Pandey
Kapalbhati is a practice which can help you to refresh, reset and rejuvenate in your daily life. The
word Kapal is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘forehead’ and bhati meaning ‘shining’. It is a hustle to keep yourself and your brain sane in today’s messy and fast-paced world. It is just not the stress from work that makes us burned out but the smallest things in life such as choosing what to wear, or making a right and healthy eating choices on a daily basis. Kapalbhati helps you to increase your intellect by focusing on your breath. It helps to clean the foggy brain and helps it to be more calm and composed when it comes to making small but important decisions on a day to day basis. There is no better way to balance and fuel the trinities of life i.e. mind, body, and soul. Breathing exercises or have been an important part of ancient Indian culture in the form of yoga from the past 5,000, the oldest natural science. Importance of Kapalbhati in Daily Life: Stress and anxiety are the two terms that have dominated the major part of our daily life. Kapalbhati is the best form of rejuvenation when it comes to pressing the reset button on life. The regular practice of Kapalbhati helps your body to absorb more fresh air daily basis and helps to improve the blood circulation within the body. Good blood circulation, especially in your brain helps to focus more and perform better in your daily life. How to Perform Kapalbhati Pranayama Sit on a hard surface with your spine erect to start with the process of Kapalbhati pranayama. You can either sit in a sukhasana (your legs crossed), Virasana (your legs bend and your shins tucked in under your thighs or on a chair while performing this pranayama. Place your hands on your knees with the palms facing up or you can place your hands one over the other in your lap for higher focus. Inhale air with both the nostrils. Exhale the air with a little forceful action and again breathe in. You can put your hand on your lower abdomen to feel the air gushing out of the body. Repeat the process for 20 minutes. Benefits of Kapalbhati Regular practice of kapalbhati can help you in losing your body fat, especially the belly area. Good blood circulation helps to improve the metabolism of the body which fuels the reduction of fat in your body. Increases the supply of blood to various parts of the body, hence increasing the overall health and functioning of the body. It helps in improving your memory and concentration by energizing your brain cells with the consistent practice of pranayama. Kapalbhati is one of the best pranayamas when it comes to balancing your chakras. This pranayama is very helpful in improving the digestion of the body. It is a very good practice when it comes to relieving stress and anxiety. It can enhance the beauty of your skin by fueling your body with fresh air and increased blood circulation. It is a very good practice when it comes to relaxing and de-stressing your body daily basis. Kapalbhati Pranayama Precautions People suffering from abdomen ulcers should avoid doing Kapalbhati pranayama. This pranayama is a forceful breathing technique and requires a higher level of experience and therefore beginnings should begin with simple breathing techniques. Make sure you are not putting too much pressure while exhaling the air. If you feel dizzy while performing the practice, it is preferred to stop the practice until you feel better. Contraindication People with heart disease, hernia or severe condition regarding blood pressure should avoid doing kapalbhati pranayama. People who have gone through any recent abdomen surgery should practice it under professional guidance. Conclusion To conclude it all, Kapalbhati is a proven way of rejuvenating your body and getting rid of daily stress and anxiety. Our bodies need a daily escape towards relief and relaxation and having a daily dose of kapalbhati can significantly help you increase your concentration and improve your body functioning in your daily life. Though it is an advanced breathing technique but regular practice can help you to get better at it. It is a practice that can be easily practiced at home and a lot about this pranayama can be found on the internet as it is one of the best and most practiced pranayama of all due to its various benefits.
Ujjayi Breathing Guide
by Sushant Pandey
Ujjayi Pranayama or the ocean breath means to be victorious or to conquer. Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word
meaning victory. Ujjayi Pranayama is a practice that can help get a sense of freedom from any restriction or bondage. In this pranayama, the pressure is applied at the back of your throat so while inhaling the air into your lungs a sound is created. This practice helps to keep your mind cool while making your body feel a sense of warmth and helps in balancing all the three doshas. Importance of Ujjayi Pranayama in Daily Life Due to the dominant presence of stress and pressure in our daily life, it has become quite hard to relax our bodies and provide our minds the right outlook. Ujjayi Pranayama is a practice that focuses to improve your mental health quality along with providing health benefits to your body such as better sleep, calm and composed mind, improved immune system, etc. Taking out even 10 minutes daily to practice Ujjayi Pranayama can help you significantly in terms of keeping your mind and body healthy. Ujjayi Pranayama Step by Step Guide: Sit on a hard surface and make sure to keep your spine erect. Take a few breaths to relax your body before entering into the Pranayama. Breathe in through your nostrils to fill the air in your lungs while applying a little pressure on your throat so that a sound is created. Your throat will be in a contracted position due to the application of pressure. Air does not have to touch the surface of your nostrils and therefore no pressure is applied to them. Hold your breath for a few seconds or depending on your capacity. Release it through your left nostril while pressing the right one with your fingers to close it. Repeat this for a few times. Constricting the Back of the Throat Ujjayi Pranayama requires constricting of the throat to let in the air into the lungs with a little pressure. In this process, you have to gently constrict the aperture or opening of the throat to make a hissing sound. No extreme pressure is needed while performing the pranayama. Relax your face, your throat, your jaw and start the practice with a few yogic breaths. Don’t get distracted and make sure to focus on your breath while performing the pranayama. It can be a little tricky for beginners and hence should be done under some form of guidance. Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits Practicing Ujjayi pranayama helps you sleep better as it helps to calm your body down. Help keep your mind cool and calm and hence provides clarity. This pranayama helps to practice a high level of concentration and increases your focus. It helps to provide relief in headaches and sinus infection. It is a very good practice for stammering children. Ujjayi pranayama when practiced regularly improves your mental and physical states of mind and body. It helps in improving your digestion. It is a very good practice to improve your immune system. Increases the energy levels of your body along with the stamina. Ujjayi Breathing Precautions Make sure to not put too much pressure on your throat while performing this pranayama. People with high blood pressure should perform it under professional guidance. Do this pranayama on empty stomach for best results. Ujjayi Breath Contraindications It should not be practiced by people with heart disease as a little pressure is applied while performing this pranayama. Not be practiced when people are suffering from severe migraine problems. Conclusion In all Ujjayi Pranayama holds several health benefits to it whether it is mental or physical. Putting the right amount of pressure on the throat can look a little tricky but can be achieved by practicing the pranayama consistently. There are a lot of guides present out there in the form of videos or articles regarding the practice of Ujjayi Pranayama. It is an easy practice and can be performed in the comfort of your home.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama: a Technique to Harmonize the Brain Centers
by Sushant Pandey
The breath is the basis of our being and without it we cannot survive. It is one such unique process
in the body which is controlled by autonomic as well volitional centres of the brain. On subtle plane breath and states of consciousness are interconnected and on physical level it corresponds with our nervous system. Breathing is normally controlled by the autonomic nervous system and brain centers (Medulla and pons) when we are not controlling the breath. Breathing is one activity which we can control at will using the higher centers of the brain, otherwise lower centers of the brain regulate our breathing when our mind is occupied elsewhere. As we know, the rhythm of the breath is directly affected by our physical as well as emotional states. Even this association of our breath and mental states reflects in our language and daily vocabulary when we say for example; one can “gasp” with shock or “sigh/choke” with sadness etc. If we are angry, our breathing becomes agitated and when we get scared, the breath can stop momentarily. It becomes very evident that our breath is the easiest and most effective tool to enter our inner environment. The fluctuations of our emotional states are difficult to control, but we can control the breath, and the conclusion is obvious. By learning to breathe smoothly, gently, and without irregularities we can greatly reduce distracting thoughts as well as gain a heightened sense of concentration and focus. So the first step before any actual pranayama technique is undertaken, is that we tune into the rhythm of the breath and learn to regulate it. Unconscious control of the breath originates in the medulla oblongata region of the brain stem (a region otherwise known as the ‘primitive brain’) whilst conscious control of the breath comes from the more evolved areas of the brain in the cerebral cortex. When we breathe consciously, the cerebral cortex by-passes the respiratory centre in the brain stem and it is said that impulses from this cortex affect adjoining areas of the brain which are concerned with emotions. Conscious breathing therefore triggers those centres in the brain which are more evolved. Whatever the other implications are for conscious breathing, it is certain that it has a calming effect. As Swami Rama says “if you need control, then choose breath as the object upon which to meditate. Remember that the equal exchange of inhalation-exhalation always leads you to tranquillity.” See Also: Top Breathing Technique . How to Do Nadi Shodhana Pranayama? (Psychic Channel Purification) Technique There is one simple pranayama techniques (breathing technique) known as Nadi Shodhana pranayama which helps to tone the autonomic centre and enhances the level of relaxation. Nadi Shodhana pranayama is an excellent technique to relax and balance the two sides of hemispheres. Steps Perform this technique sit in a comfortable position either on the floor or on a chair. Keep the body relaxed and upright. And then for a few moments to focus our awareness on the breath and make it more relaxed and rhythmic by breathing with the count of 5 mentally and breathe out with the count of 7. Now place the first two fingers of the right hand on the eyebrow centre and close the right nostril with the thumb. Now through the left nostril inhale slowly and deeply with the count of 5 and then close the left and exhale through the right nostril with the count of 7. At the end of exhalation this time inhale through the right nostril with the same count of 5 and exhale through the left with the count of 7. This is 1 round of the practice. This way continue the practice for 7-10 cycles/rounds. Benefits of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama This is an excellent practice to relax the nervous system and calm down the nerves in quick time. People who suffer from insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety disorder, stress and migraine may find this practice highly beneficial. Practice note Throughout this process of breathing make sure there is no unnecessary stress or jerks in breathing in or out. Your breathing should be very relaxed, slow, rhythmic and deep.
Types of Pranayama and Their Benefits
by Sushant Pandey
In my previous blog The Importance And Benefits Of Pranayama I explained the concept and meaning of
pranayama, if you have not read it, I suggest to read it first to understand the nuances. In this part of the blog, I will discuss the techniques and benefits of each type of Pranayama. Pranayama is known as a Hatha Yoga practice to control and expand the vital energy (prana). In traditional texts such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita, there are many different types of pranayama and their benefits are immense. Each technique of pranayama is used specifically to bring about a specific change and benefits in the body-mind complex. Broadly speaking all the different pranayama techniques are categorized under four different categories- Pranayama Type and Their Benefits Balancing Pranayama: (Nadi Shodhana) According to the science of Hatha Yoga, the flow of breath in each nostril is intimately connected with various opposite and dual functions such as right and left hemisphere activities, sympathetic and Para sympathetic dominance, action and relaxation in the body. It can be said that we are dominated by cyclic fluctuations and that these fluctuations are reflected in the breath. Most notably in the breath in each nostril. The science of Hatha Yoga, more specifically named as Swara Yoga also observes that the predominance of breath in the right and left nostrils alternate on an average of ninety-minute cycles. Between the changes in dominance, there exists a state of balanced flow which is the period when all systems operate at an optimum level and capacity and the spiritual energy (Atma Shakti awakened). According to Swara Yoga and Hatha Yoga tradition, predominance air flow in one specific nostril signifies the predominant state of one of the specific nadis (energy flow) in the body. For an example predominance of right nostril signifies dominance of Pingala Nadi (Solar energy or vital energy current) whereas predominance of left nostril represents predominance of Ida Nadi or the psychic or mental pranic force. Once these two are in the state of balance and harmony then the third energy force is active which is Sushumna Nadi or uplifting spiritual energy. Literally, Nadi Shodhana means purification of Nadi (energy channels). This is one of the most significant pranayama practices in Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga tradition. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Technique [caption id="attachment_8937" align="alignleft" width="300"] Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Technique[/caption] To perform Nadi Shodhana pranayama one may sit in any one comfortable position with the spine erect. Then bring right hand in front of the face in Nasagra mudra (hand gesture) with first two fingers resting on at the eyebrow centre and placing the thumb on the right nostril and ring finger on the left to close and open the nostrils. Now to start the first stage of the practice start inhaling from the left nostril with slow, deep and rhythmic breath while keeping the right closed with the thumb. At the end of inhalation close the left nostril and open the right and breathe slowly and deeply. After exhalation through the right nostril now inhale through the right and exhale through the left. This completes one round of the practice. This stage of Nadi Shodhana pranayama is also called alternate nostrils breathing. As this basic stage of the pranayama is mastered then gradually one is graduated to other stages of the technique which incorporates different breathing ratios. Benefits of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing as practiced in Nadi Shodhana has far reaching effects on the entire system. It results in enhancing the vital capacity of our lungs and helps to relax the rhythms of the heart and nervous system. Inhalation is an active process and exhalation is relatively passive in nature. These two stages of breathing are also associated with sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. During inhalation, the sympathetic system is active whereas during exhalation parasympathetic system is predominant. In Nadi shodhana, one has to be able to control respiration and expiration, which balances out the whole respiratory cycle. From the physiological point of view, Nadi shodhana is the perfect balancing practice. Alternate nostril breathing stimulates the left and right sides of the brain equally and there by the left and right sides of the body. Energetically, it directly balances the two major nadis Ida and Pingala, which play a major role in determining our thinking and behavior, deciding whether we are internalized or externalized. Furthermore, it is stated in the yogic texts that when ida and pingala are balanced and purified. Sushumna Nadi which is responsible for spiritual experience begins to flow. This leads to heightened awareness and spontaneous meditative states. When we follow the ration of 1:2 it imposes a smooth and even rhythm on the normal rhythm of the brain. By using the ratio of 1:2 which means keeping the length of exhalation double that of inhalation helps to provide ample time for brain and heart to relax. It also activates the functions of parasympathetic response in the body. Tranquilizing Pranayama (Ujjayi) Tranquilizing Pranayama (Ujjayi) Technique This process of Ujjayi breathing works on extending the breath with complete comfort, awareness, and relaxation. Ujjayi pranayama involves a very gentle contraction of glottis in the throat while breathing in and out. This gentle contraction of the throat helps to control and to regulate the flow of each inhalation and exhalation. As a result, each breath becomes very smooth, conscious and deep. Benefits of Tranquilizing Pranayama (Ujjayi) Normal respiration is very weak and only uses a very small percentage of the lung capacity. Ujjayi uses the complete respiration capacity & has a very powerful effect. There is proper gaseous exchange happening during the process in the blood. This process of Ujjayi pranayama imposes a conscious control over the process of inspiration and expiration. Otherwise, breath is controlled by unconscious areas of the brain. This conscious control over the breath helps to reset the autonomic functioning of the brain. The smooth and the relaxing rhythm of conscious breath initiated by Ujjayi helps in de-emotionalize the breath. It is one of those pranayama techniques which is highly beneficial for people suffering from anxiety or panic attack. This practice of Ujjayi leaves a profoundly relaxing effect at the psychic level the deeper level of our being. For this reason, Ujjayi is one of the most useful of all the Pranayama practices in Yoga therapy. Practice of Ujjayi also has an effect on Carotid Sinuses in the region of the throat. Carotid sinuses regulate blood pressure in the arteries. These sinuses control blood pressure through feedback mechanisms. Once Ujjayi pranayama is performed is exerts a mild pressure on these sinuses which in turn send a message to the brain to lower the blood pressure. Therefore it is a highly recommended practice for people suffering from high blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Heating Pranayama (Kapalbhati and Bhastrika) There is a number of heating pranayama techniques in Hatha Yoga which activate, vitalize and distribute prana in the body. By nature, this activating group of pranayama techniques are highly vitalizing and energizing. Kapalbhati Pranayama (Frontal brain cleansing pranayama) Kapalbhati Pranayama Technique The technique of Kapalbhati pranayama is performed by reversing the normal breathing cycle. By making inhalation passive and exhalation active. It initiates action by activating the vertical movements of the diaphragm in the body. During the practice, exhalation is forced out of the body by contraction of abdominal muscles and upward movement of the diaphragm followed by subsequent passive inhalation and relaxation of abdominal muscles. Normally Kapalbhati pranayama is performed at the rhythm of each contraction per second. But later on with practice rhythm of the breath can also be increased. Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama This dynamic and activation pranayama alters the level of carbon dioxide and other chemicals, acids, and alkalis in the blood. This is an excellent technique to mobilize stagnant air in the lungs and expels high quality of carbon dioxide. Kapalbhati pranayama is also part of six cleansing techniques (shatkarma) in traditional Hatha Yoga. The intention of the pranayama is to cleanse the body, the nervous system and removing accumulated gases that build up in the upper part of the lungs. On the pranic level, the constant abdominal movements in the body activate Samana Vayu which is responsible for the better exchange of energy. This activation of Samana Vayu and upward movement of prana stimulates the higher centers of the brain. On the physical plane constant contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles resulting in an improved distribution of blood and other digestive fluids in the abdominal region. Hence helps in improving the functioning of the system. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellow breath) Bhastrika belongs to the same category of heating or activating pranayama. Effect-wise, Bhastrika pranayama is physically and energetically more intense and demanding than Kapalbhati pranayama. It is called bellows breath because it activates metabolic and pranic fire (Agni) by initiating movements in the abdomen as similar to that of bellows. Bhastrika Pranayama Technique Technically it is quite similar to Kapalbhati pranayama. The only difference is here is that in Bhastrika both inhalation and exhalation are active and forceful whereas in Kapalbhati pranayama the only exhalation is active. In Bhastrika pranayama one requires control over the diaphragm. During this practice, it is very common that one may start feeling dizzy and feel hyperventilated. Therefore to do this pranayama effectively one has to gradually develop control over inhalation and needs to regulate it consciously to avoid dizziness. This entire practice should be performed in a relaxed state of body and mind. Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama Practice of Bhastrika pranayama fans the digestive fire and massages all the internal organs of the body. During the process, there is an intense activity of the diaphragm and the lungs which result in a better-oxygenated supply of the blood to all the different areas of the body and brain especially. In Bhastrika most of the carbon dioxide is expelled out of the system as a result one is prepared to hold retention of the breath (kumbhaka) for a long period of time. In traditional Hatha and Kundalini Yoga, Bhastrika is often used to prepare one for longer Kumbhaka experiences. Bhastrika is an excellent practice for those who live a very sedentary life. It helps to activate the metabolic fire and purifying all the different Dhatus (7 different bodily constituents according to Ayurveda). According to the Yogic texts and Ayurveda, a formation of the three Doshas known as Vata (air), Pitta (bile) and Kapha (phlegm) can be managed and balanced by the practice of Bhastrika. One of the major causes of diseases according to both Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda is the blocking of Agni (fire). Through Bhastrika pranayama this blocking is removed and Manipura chakra is vitalized. Unblocking pranic flow from Manipura Chakra (solar plexus or Navel chakra) help activating and piecing of the Granthis (psychic knots) and awakening the Brahma Nadi, according to Kundalini Yoga. Cooling Pranayama (Sheetali or Sheetkari) There is a number of pranayama techniques which leave a cooling effect on the body. These cooling pranayamas have effects on the mouth and all the blood vessels located there. There are many blood vessels in the mouth and the tongue, these techniques of cooling pranayama directly cool down the body because blood carries heat in the body. Once mouth and tongue are cooled down then the circulation of cooler blood result in cooling down the rest of the body and especially the brain. Sheetali Pranayama Sheetali Pranayama Technique [caption id="attachment_8938" align="alignleft" width="200"] Sheetali Pranayama[/caption] Literally, Sheetali means cooling. In this technique of Sheetali pranayama breathing take place through the mouth by rolling the tongue from the sides. With the rolling of the tongue, a tube-like structure is created through which one inhales deeply and then at the end of inhalation one closes the mouth and exhales through the nose. This entire process is repeated a number of times with long, slow and deep full yogic breathing (incorporating three stages of breathing- abdominal, chest and clavicular breathing). For a better cooling effect, one should perform it for 10-15 times with a relaxed body, breath, and mind. Sheetkari Pranayama Sheetkari Pranayama Technique [caption id="attachment_8939" align="alignleft" width="200"] Sheetkari Pranayama[/caption] Sheetkari also means cooling breath, it is another variation of the cooling category of pranayamas. It is more convenient for people who cannot roll the tongue from the side. In the practice, lips are opened and teeth are exposed and then a long, slow and deep breath is taken through the mouth and at the end of inhalation lips are closed and exhalation happens through the nose. Once one inhales through the teeth, breath creates a hissing sound and results in cooling effects in the entire mouth region. Like Sheetali pranayama, Sheetkari can also be repeated for 10-15 times. Benefits of Sheetkari Pranayama Through these techniques a control is developed over temperature controlling mechanisms in the brain. These techniques are performed in Yoga Sadhana to cool down the excessive heat generated during the practices. This is excellent practice for those who have excessive Pitta activities. Regarding the benefits of this technique, it has been mentioned that one again control over sleep, lethargy, thirst, and hunger. These effects are possible because of cooling or lowering the body temperature which automatically activates Ida. With Ida activation, there is a natural effect on the mind to get internalized. And with the cooling of the body, there is a tendency to relax deeper and fall asleep. These practices which cool down the physical systems and activate Ida Nadi, are recommended for anger management, excessive anxiety, and insomnia. Rishikesh Yogis Yogshala offers Yoga Alliance accredited Yoga Teacher Training Certification Courses in Rishikesh. At Rishikesh Yogis, we believe yoga is a lifestyle. It is not a technique or a mere practice; it is how one can lead their life towards its betterment. Our yoga retreats and training sessions lead you to immerse yourself into the yogic lifestyle while dwelling in an ashram-style setting, alongside experienced and dedicated yogis. We have Internationally acclaimed award-winning world-class certified yoga trainers.
What are the Importance and Benefits of Pranayama
by Sushant Pandey
This is a two-part series to explain the importance and benefits of Pranayama. In the first part Let
's discuss the concept and meaning of pranayama as defined in Hatha Yoga and Patanjali Yog Sutra. In the next part of this blog, the techniques and benefits of each technique are discussed in the detail. Concept and Meaning of Pranayama It should be noted that Pranayama is not deep breathing similarly retaining the breath once only as long as one can do so is not the way of Pranayama. Prana Means the vital force, Ayama is the lengthening or widening through control. When breathing is controlled so as to retain the prana, it is Pranayama. The ultimate aim of Pranayama is to be able to retain the breath. There are three types of Pranayama, namely, Puraka (inhalation), Rechaka (exhalation) and Kumbhaka (retention) are of two types, Antaranga (internal) and Bahiranga (external). "Tatah Ksiyate prakashavaranam" Thereby the covering of light disappears. It is said in Patanjali Yoga Sutra that by the practice of Pranayama the psychic centers are activated and as a result of that, the covering of knowledge is removed. Prakasha here means the psychic centers. The psychic centers are usually covered or veiled due to sensory experiences. The luminosity of these subtler vehicles is limited or covered by the physical matter of the brain. Removal of psychic or pranic blockages In pranayama practices breath is considered as the vehicle which harmonizes, activates and liberates psychic and vital energies in the body. Removal of covering by Pranayama means removal of the covering physical matter over the psychic faculty. It means that when you have practiced Pranayama something happens in you by which the psychic energies are released from the veil or control or obstruction of the physical mechanisms of the brain. Energy is released even when you switch on the light or switch on the fan. Pranayama creates a similar condition in the brain by which the inherent psychic faculties are released. Concept of Pranayama as per Hatha Yoga [caption id="attachment_8875" align="alignleft" width="402"] Bhramari Pranayama[/caption] In the tradition of Hatha Yoga, practices of pranayama should only be started once the body is released from dross and energy channels are free from blockages through the practices of Shatkarma (cleansing techniques), Asana (Hatha yoga pose) and Yogic diet. Pranayama is more than simple breathing exercises and it must be practiced systematically and under the proper guidance. The word Prana is a combination of two syllables. Pra and Na. Prana denotes constancy it is a force in constant motion. Prana is the vital life force and Pranayama is the process by which internal pranic store is increased. Pranayama is comprised of two words Prana & Ayama. Which means Pranic capacity or length: It is not merely breath control but a technique through which quantity of Prana in the body is activated in a higher frequency. In yogic terminology, it is said that whatever is manifest is the sthoola rupa or gross form of the subtle, cosmic energy, known as prana. In yoga and tantra, there is an eternal truth: the basis of existence depends on the two forces, Shiva & Shakti, consciousness and energy, ultimately they are not two forces but one; Shakti or prana is the creative and dynamic aspect of consciousness or Shiva. The purpose of hatha yoga is the realize Shiva or consciousness by means of Shakti or Prana. Pranayama is practiced in order to understand and control the pranic process in the body. Breathing is a direct means of absorbing Prana and the manner in which we breathe sets off Pranic Vibration which influence our entire being. Effects of Pranayama on Prana and Mind When prana moves, chitta (the mental force) moves. When Prana is without movement, Chitta is without movement. By this (steadiness of Prana) the yogi attains steadiness and should thus restrain the Vayu (Air)’. II/2 Hatha Yoga Pradipika Prana and mind are intricately linked. Fluctuation of one means fluctuation of others. When either the mind or the prana becomes balanced the other is steadied. Hatha yoga says, control the Prana and the mind is automatically controlled, whereas Raja Yoga says, control the mind Prana gets controlled. These are two approached of yoga. The mind is equated with a wild monkey, jumping here and there. Because of this inborn tendency, it is very difficult to hold it still. Hatha yoga says let the mind be concentrate on the automatic body functions and vital energy and mind will become quite by itself. When the nervous impulses steady and rhythmic, the brain functions are regulated and the brain waves become rhythmic. The breathing process is directly connected to the brain and central nervous system. It also has some connection with the Hypothalamus, the brain center, which controls emotional responses. The Hypothalamus is responsible for translating perception into the cognitive experience. Erratic breathing sends erratic impulses to this center and thus creates disturbed responses. [caption id="attachment_8874" align="alignleft" width="375"] Nadi Shodhana Pranayama[/caption] There are also certain areas of nasal mucous membrane which are connected to the visceral organs. When impulses coming from the nose are rhythmic the visceral organs, particularly those connected to the coccygeal plexus, respond in the same manner, rhythmically. Being disturbed, these organs again send irregular impulses to the brain and cause more disharmony and imbalance. This cycle is continuous. By becoming aware of the nature of breath and by restraining it, the whole system is controlled. When you retain the breath you are stopping nervous impulses in different parts of the body & harmonizing the brain wave patterns. In Pranayama, it is the duration of breath retention which has to be increased. The longer the breath is held the greater the gap between nerve impulses and their responses in the brain. When retention is held for a prolonged period mental agitation is curtailed. Pranayama as per Patanjali Yoga Sutra Actually, Patanjali defines Pranayama as the gap between inhalation and exhalation. Pranayama is usually considered to be the controlled inhalation and exhalation combined with retention. However, technically speaking it is the only retention. Inhalation/exhalation are methods of inducing retention. Retention is most important because it allows a longer period for as it allows more time for the exchange of gases in the cells. I.e. oxygen and carbon dioxide. Patanjali further says that retention of breath after expiration removes the hindrance to yoga. In Hatha Yoga, Yoga is the union of the two poles of energy within us, known as Ida (the mental or psychic force) and Pingala (the vital force). In mundane awareness, these poles are separate from each other. In transcendental awareness, these poles come closest together and during retention, the poles come closest together. Breath retention must be developed in order to stop the fluctuation of the brain and mind so that more expansive types of experience can develop. When you go further into yoga, there comes a time when you must have some control of the mind so you can dive deeper within yourself. When you try to practice mantra or meditation, the fluctuating mental waves create a barrier between you and the object you are trying to focus your awareness on. In the next part of this blog, learn about the Types of Pranayama and Their Benefits. Rishikesh Yogis Yogshala offers Yoga Alliance accredited Yoga Teacher Training Certification Courses in Rishikesh. At Rishikesh Yogis, we believe yoga is a lifestyle. It is not a technique or a mere practice; it is how one can lead their life towards its betterment. Our yoga retreats and training sessions lead you to immerse yourself into the yogic lifestyle while dwelling in an ashram-style setting, alongside experienced and dedicated yogis. We have Internationally acclaimed award-winning world-class certified yoga trainers.