Friday, April 24, 2009

Yoga Pranayama | Yoga Breathing Techniques

Yoga has come to be associated with extreme stretching techniques and postures. Although these stretching exercises (which are neither too hard nor too extreme once you’ve mastered them) or Asanas are an important part of yoga, there is another equally important aspect of yoga that is frequently overlooked. This is Pranayama, which literally means “controlling the life force”.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama essentially refers to a series of breathing techniques that are practiced in yoga. Breath is the basis of all life. Unfortunately, very few people actually know how to breathe in the right manner. Most people utilize only 30 percent of their lungs by taking shallow breaths. Pranayama teaches you how to breathe deeply and utilizes the power of breath to ensure that sufficient oxygen reaches all parts of the body.

In addition to ensuring that all the various parts of the body receive a sufficient supply of oxygen, Pranayama also helps to relieve stress and tension. The deep breathing techniques practiced as a part of Pranayama also help to facilitate meditation.

All Pranayama techniques are composed of three components. These include:
  • Deep inhalation to ensure that an adequate supply of oxygen reaches the lungs.
  • Holding your breath to ensure the optimal absorption of oxygen.
  • Forceful exhalation which helps to remove toxins and other waste products frm the body.

Pranayama Breathing

Let us take a look at some of the different Pranayama breathing exercises that are performed as a part of yoga.


Anulom-Vilom or alternate nostril breathing is one of the most common types of Pranayama. In this yoga breathing technique, you inhale through one nostril, hold your breath, and then exhale through the other nostril. This simple breathing technique has a very powerful impact on health and helps to combat problems such as allergies, sinuses, snoring, and migraines.

Ujjayi, or the ocean, is another powerful Pranayama breathing technique. In this technique you have to inhale and exhale through the nose while constricting your throat so that a sound akin to those made by waves is produced. This breathing technique really strengthens the lungs and helps in combating ailments of the respiratory system.

Kapalabhati is an advanced yoga breathing technique which focuses on powerful exhalations by clenching the stomach muscles. This technique strengthens the core muscles and also allows all toxins to be removed from the body with the exhaled air.

There are many variations of these powerful yogic breathing techniques and all of them provide a multitude of benefits. It is essential to learn the proper method of carrying out these breathing exercises from a qualified yoga teacher before attempting them.

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