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Breathing Techniques (Part-3)

Updated on January 25, 2013

Pranayama Techniques

The preceding hub dealt with first two levels of Pranayama. Here we will get acquainted with next two advanced levels.

Technique # 3 (‘Antar Kumbhaka’---Inner Retention)

a) Close the right nostril and breath in slowly through the left nostril, counting from 1-5 in your mind.

b) After the inhalation ends, close both nostrils and retain the air in the lungs for a count of 5 again.

c) Open the right nostril, breathe in slightly through the right nostril and then slowly breathe out slowly through the same nostril up to a count of 5. Exhalation should be smooth and regulated and should be for the same length of time as inhalation.

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

e) Now retain the breath up to a count of 5 keeping the left nostril closed.

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

g) Open the left nostril, breathe in slightly through the left nostril and then breathe out through the same nostril for a count of 5.

h) This completes one round. You can practice 10 such rounds.

The ratio during inhalation and exhalation is important to maintain. You can alter the ratio as you develop the ability to control breath for a longer time. After maintaining the ration of 1:1:1 increase the ratio to 1:1:2. This means in the initial stage of this level, if you inhale up to a count of 5 and the ‘internal kumbhaka’(inner breath retention) is for a count of 5, the exhalation should be for a count of 10. After a few weeks of practice, increase the ratio to 1:2:2 which means that if you inhale up to a count of 5 the internal kumbhaka should be for a count of 10 and the exhalation also should be up to a count of 10. Gradually increase the count by one over a period of one or two years to 24:48:48. Once this has been mastered, go on to the next level.

Technique # 4 (Antar & Bahar Kumbhaka) meaning internal and external retention

a) In this method outer breath retention is mastered. Do not try to hold the breath (outside) for too long at first even if you find that easy to do.

b) Inhale through left nostril. Retain breath inside as described in level # 3. Exhale through the right nostril.

c) After exhalation, when lungs get emptied of the air, close both nostrils and hold the breath out for a particular count (which you chose).

d) Exhale slowly though the right nostril immediately before inhalation. This releases the lock on the lungs and the glottis and brings the respiratory system smoothly back into operation.

e) Inhale slowly through the right nostril. Retain breath inside as described earlier.

f) Exhale through left nostril.

g) Again hold the breath out to the count (you chose) with both nostrils closed.

h) This completes one round. You may practice for 5 rounds.

The ratio should start off as 1:4:2:2 for inhalation, internal retention, exhalation and external retention respectively. The duration of inhalation should be slowly increased and so should be the duration of exhalation and retention adjusted accordingly. Do not increase the count until you are fully comfortable with the existing count.

Precautions to be taken:

Depending on the time (sunrise / sunset) you are practicing Pranayama, one of the two nostrils usually becomes dominant and it is not advisable to change the flow of breath at any time. Under no circumstances, breath should be forced. Never breathe through mouth and always proceed with the help of expert guidance. At the slightest sign of discomfort, reduce the duration of inhalation, exhalation or ‘breath retention’ and if necessary, discontinue the practice till you are prepared to it.

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