Yoga And Breath

Breath is the basic life force in a living being. Most students have appreciated the role of Yoga in controlling breath. Breath has a tremendous power to heal and to rejuvenate. Its importance in therapeutic cases cannot be undermined. Swami Ramdev has revolutionised the use of various breathing techniques or Pranayama all across North India. So, what are the different uses of breath?

According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika pranayama should be practised four times a day, in the early morning, evening and midnight, with 80 cycles at a time. The best seasons to practise pranayama are spring and autumn, when the climate is equable. Pranayama should be done in a clean airy place and preferably seated on the floor on a  folded blanket. Suitable postures for that are Virasana, Padmasana and Baddhakonasana with an erect back and chin resting in the notch between the collar-bones and eyes lightly shut. So here are the various types of basic pranayama for starters:

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Sodhana means purifying or cleansing, so the object of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is the purification of the nerves.

  • Perform Jnana Mudra with the left hand (index finger and thumb joined) and bend the right arm at the elbow.
  • Bend the index and middle fingers and place them in the middle of your eyebrows. Press the ring and little finger against the left nostril while inhaling from the right and place the right thumb on the right side of the nose just below the nasal bone.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, blocking the right one and slowly block the left nostril. Then release the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril, blocking the left nostril.


Repeat 8 to 10 cycles. This should take about 6 to 8 minutes.

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika means a bellows used in a furnace. Sitting in the same posture, follow this technique-

  • Take a fast, vigorous breath and exhale forcefully with a loud sound of air gushing out of your nostrils.
  • Complete 10 to 12 cycles at a stretch.


Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapala means skull and Bhati means light; this is a milder form of Bhastrika Pranayama.

  • Inhale slowly but exhale vigorously.
  • There is a split second of retention (holding the breath) after each exhalation.


Do a few cycles of Kapalabhati if Bhastrika feels strenuous.

Benefits of Pranayama

While Bhastrika and Kapalabhati activate and invigorate the liver, spleen, pancreas and abdominal muscles; digestion is improved and sinuses are drained Nadi Shodhana is good for soothing the nerves. The real disclaimer here is that those suffering from high or low blood pressure, heart ailments or eye or ear complaints (pus in the ear, detachment of the retina)  should avoid doing strenuous pranayama and perform 10 to 15 simple deep breathing cycles without holding the breath.

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