Originating in India, yoga is an ancient tradition that has been practiced for centuries. Although ancient, yoga has never been more popular. One of the most important parts of yoga are breathing exercises. In this post, we will discuss the 6 most popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises.
“Pranayama” is the practice of breath control and regulation in yoga. “Prana” in Pranayama is a vital energy that nourishes the mind and keeps the body alive. It is one of the most ancient disciplines and helps in attaining peace and self awareness.
Pranayama controls the rhythm of pranic energy. In pranayama, one consciously controls breathing through various breathing techniques.
The 6 Popular Pranayama Yoga Breathing Exercises for Beginners
- Bhramari Pranayama
- Kapal Bhati Pranayama
- Bhastrika Pranayama
- Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
- Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama
- Ujjayi Pranayama
Next, we will briefly explain each of the 6 most popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises in more detail.
One of the most popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises is Bhramari Pranayama. In this type of pranayama, the practitioner closes the ears with the thumb and eyes are closed with the fingers. First, one chants ‘Om’ while exhaling and also the sound of a bee is produced while breathing slowly. Similarly, one can also chant ‘Om’ while exhaling. This can be referred to as ‘humming bee breathes’. This should go on until 5-10 minutes and when it is over, one should repeat the cycle.
This humming sound calms the mind and body naturally. It also helps in increasing concentration, alertness, memory improvement and relieving stress. Bhramari Pranayama also reduces migraines and build confidence. It helps in reducing blood pressure and is good for Alzheimer’s disease. It calms the nerves.
Kapal Bhati Pranayama
Kapal Bhati pranayama strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Additionally, it also helps in increasing focus, reducing anxiety and burning calories. It improves the functioning of liver and kidney. Kapal Bhati Pranayama also helps in getting rid of dark circles and reduces eye strain. It also calms the brain and rejuvenates the body while also eliminating acidity and gas related problems.
In this type of pranayama, the yoga practitioner forcefully exhales from lungs and involuntarily inhales. One should exhale forcefully in such a way that the belly tucks inside and the air is released. Usually kapalabhati pranayama is done as a warm up exercise. The belly should go back to the same position upon completion of inhalation. This cycle of inhalation and exhalation should be done for few minutes.
Bhastrika Pranayama is one of the best and most popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises. It not only helps in increasing the blood circulation in the body and but also activates body channels. Additionally, it also plays an important role with worry, tolerance of anxiety as well as PTSD. It brings tranquility and peace to mind. This type of breathing technique strengthens the lungs and helps in curing asthma. It treats the common cold and is good for immune system.
Bhastrika pranayama also calms the mind and keeps allergies at bay. In this type of yoga, one sits in a cross legged position and closes the eyes while keeping the spine straight. One should inhale and exhale at a fast rate. Inhale deeply and exhale forcefully for maximum effect.
The main purpose of this yoga is that the stomach should go inside. In this type of breathing technique the yoga practitioner needs to remain consistent.
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
This type of yoga technique helps in purifying the energy channels of the body. It brings balance to the mind, body and soul of the human body due to alternate nostril breathing. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama is quite innovative and it also can help manage stress, anxiety, and curbing smoking cravings.
To begin practicing Nadi Sodhana, sit in a cross legged position comfortably. Then using the right hand, one should close the right side of the nose while inhaling deeply with the left nostril. Repeat this procedure with the right nostril as well. Nadi Sodhana should be practiced daily for 10-15 times for optimal health benefits.
Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama
This type of pranayama helps in relaxing, reducing stress and cleansing of nasal passages. Anuloma and Viloma Pranayama streamlines the metabolism and controls diabetes. It helps in reducing arthritis and sinusitis. This technique is divided into two stages: paused inhalation and paused exhalation. It is done when one inhales for 2-3 seconds and pauses, then again restarts the inhalation and pauses for a few seconds while sitting in a comfortable position.
Inhalation should be done until lungs are full of air. It is important to exhale slowly. One must relax the mind and body. Viloma Pranayama is where breathing is paused in regular intervals. In Anukoma Pranayama, breathing is done through nostrils in an alternative way. Both techniques are similar.
Ujjayi Pranayama is another one of the most popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises. It isbeneficial in throat related issues and can act as an alternative treatment for stress and PTSD as it helps in reducing anxiety. It is useful for lungs, heart, stomach and internal organs. To begin practicing Ujjayi Pranayama, sit in a cross-legged position and breathe through the mouth.
The yoga practitioner tries to mimic the sound of ocean waves by constricting the throat. Then after closing the mouth, breathing should be done through the nose again by constricting the throat. Repeat this practice 10-15 times. This may feel awkward in the beginning but gives great relaxation.
These are the 6 types of popular pranayama yoga breathing exercises for beginners.
There are certain tips for the beginners who want to start yoga and adapt it in their lifestyle. The beginners must understand certain guidelines for practicing pranayama, and we have listed the most common recommendations below.
Guidelines for Practicing Pranayama
- Practice Pranayama on empty stomach and ideally in the early morning
- One should perform pranayama in a clean and hygienic place
- Although open and outdoor spaces are suitable for practicing pranayama, one should avoid chaotic and noisy places
- One must eat 4-5 hours before pranayama and 1 hour after pranayama
- Beginners should start with 5-10 minutes of pranayama and then go for half an hour to forty five minutes.
- Beginners should begin all exercises gradually and consult with their physician if they have any underlying health conditions
- One must drink sufficient water in the morning and at night so that it cleanses the stomach before doing pranayama.
- Perform Pranayama in moderate temperatures and avoid any excessively hot or cold environment
- If one feels overly exhausted and tired after pranayama then they should take additional rest and consult with their physician if fatigue persists
- Pregnant women should only do pranayama with the instructions of a yoga teacher.
Popular Pranayama Yoga Breathing Exercises Health Benefits
Yogic breathing is basically bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide from the lungs. When we practice vigorous styles of yoga like hatha yoga and vinyasa yoga, breathing becomes deeper which helps in delivering more oxygen to the brain and blood stream.
By increasing the yogic breathing capacity it has great benefits on our body and brain. It also provides mechanism for laughing, crying, talking etc. As lungs don’t inflate by themselves, we need to expand it by increasing the thoracic cavity.
The correct way of doing pranayama is not through the mouth but it is done through nose. These breathing techniques should be practiced under the guidance of yoga gurus or experienced professionals. They have physical as well as mental benefits. These techniques are useful for yoga purposes as well as for meditative practices. The action of breathing through the chest is thoracic breathing. It is one of the famous techniques in yogic breathing.
Abdominal breathing is breathing done through stomach. It helps in massaging the internal organs and relieves lower back pain. It is great for both the immune system and digestive system. Doctors are currently using this technique to help patients for relaxation as it also helps with stress, anxiety and high blood pressure. The correct way of performing these breathing exercises is the combination of both thoracic and abdominal breathing.
Yoga breathing exercises also act similarly in releasing many toxins and carbon dioxide from the lungs and body. Over time, Pranayama can increase an individual’s overall cardiovascular and respiratory health and stamina. It is not only great for the body physically but also mentally. Pranayama is the correct way to breathe as it allows our internal organs, immune system and brain to function optimally.
With time and practice, beginners will eventually realize the benefits of pranayama as it reduces stress increases bodily awareness. Pranayama helps complement other yoga meditation techniques and collectively give us more inner clarity so that we can better understand others as well as ourselves. Breathing exercises in pranayama helps in connecting us with the universal energy and attaining enlightenment.