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Techniques of Breathing (Part-2)

Updated on January 25, 2013

Benefits of Pranayama

In this article (and in the forthcoming ones), I have made an endeavor to put together (on the basis of the available data) different ways of breathing properly so as to maintain physical and mental health. This hub is primarily focused on various techniques involved in practicing ‘Pranayama’ (breath control). A simple benefit accruing out of this practice, when done on daily basis, is that the blood gets purified; the body gets more of oxygen in the process, and carbon dioxide gets expelled. The brain centers get stimulated and the stress levels get drastically reduced. Additionally, the overall vitality increases and the energy fields get channelized by the regulated inflow and outflow of the ‘vital energy’ or the ‘life force’. It clears blockages in the psychic network and maintains the constant and uninterrupted flow of energy through the channels (nadis).


The whole process of Pranayama focuses on ‘purification of channels’ and as such, it takes a long time to see the desired results. Each technique (explained below) should be practiced for a minimum period of six months except technique # 1 which may be practiced only for 2-4 weeks. Initial two (1 & 2) techniques prepare the body, especially the lungs and the nervous system, for techniques 3 and 4.The body might, in some cases, take more time to adjust to the advanced techniques as they involve breath retention for extended time period. The full benefits can only be seen by perfecting one level before going on to the next. Never even try to jump to the advanced techniques without attaining mastery over the basic ones.

1. Technique # 1 (Initial preparation)

· a) Sit in a comfortable meditation posture with spine, neck and head erect. Those who cannot sit in this posture (for medical or other reasons) may sit against a wall with legs outstretched or even on a chair having a straight back.

· b)  Relax and close your eyes.

· c) Practice deep breathing for some time.

· d) Place your left hand on your knee and with your right hand thumb, close your right nostril.

·e)  Inhale and exhale through the left nostril 5 times. Try to breathe in a way you normally do   and be aware of your breath.

· f)  After 5 breaths, release the pressure of thumb on the right nostril and close the left nostril with the ring finger, blocking the flow of air.

·g)  Inhale and exhale through right nostril 5 times. Keep the respiration rate normal.

· h) Take off your hand and breathe 5 times through both nostrils together.

·i)  This completes one round.

· Practice 5 rounds or for 3-5 minutes (whatever suits).

Practice this technique for 15 days before going on to #2

2. Technique # 2 (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

· a) This happens to be one of the most popular techniques. In this one, duration of inhalation and exhalation is controlled

· b) Close the right nostril with right hand thumb and breathe through left nostril. At te same time count (in your mind) 1 to 5 (one can chant ‘Om’ as well) until inhalation ends comfortably.

· c) Breathe deeply and do not strain. Close the left nostril with the ring finger. Release the pressure of thumb on the right nostril and while breathing out through the right nostril, count 1-5 (or OM). The time for inhalation and exhalation should be equal.

· d) Now inhale through right nostril, keeping the same count in the same manner. At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril, open the left nostril and exhale through the left nostril, counting as before.

· e) This completes one round. Practice 10 such rounds every day.

· f) After a few days of practice, you can increase the count by 1 which means you can increase the time of inhalation and exhalation as you progress.

· g) Be careful not to push yourself into forced breathing or extended breathing, beyond your capacity.

· After perfecting the above ratio, the same can be changed to 1: 2 which means if you inhale up to count 5 exhalation can be continued up to count 10. The ratio helps in calming the rhythms of brain and heart. It also acts as a treatment for cardiovascular and nervous system disorders

When you feel you have perfected this stage, proceed to the next level.

………………… to be continued.

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