Pranayama is restraint of Prana. Prana – ayama
By restraint of the breath (kumbhaka), Prana is controlled. Although, breathing exercises are not Pranayama.
Puraka is inhalation; Kumbhaka is retention of breath; Rechaka is exhalation.
The interval after inhalation and before exhalation is Kumbhaka. The Bhagavad Gita says that only Kumbhaka is pranayama.
Pranayama is quite suitable for all people in East and West, men and women.
The total number of breaths in a day is 21,600. A man generally takes fifteen breaths in a minute. Through restraining his breath he increases his longevity.
To start with, do mild Pranayama with inhalation and exhalation only, for a month. Do not go crazy with this stuff. It is powerful and can really mess someone up as it is deeply rooted in the mind and energy flow of the body.
This is not Nadishodana as that is a completely different pranayam although this is taught as nadishodana most of the time.
1. Sit on any comfortable Asan. Keep the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril as long as you can do it comfortably. Then exhale very slowly through the same nostril. Do this six times. This is one round.
2. Close the left nostril with your little and ring fingers and inhale and exhale through the right nostril. Do this six times. This is one round. You can do six rounds of these alternately and gradually increase the number to thirty.
Inhale through both the nostrils slowly and gently. Do not retain the breath. Do this six times. This is one round. You can practise three or four rounds of this exercise. You can do this daily.
Inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Do not retain the breath.
Then Inhale through right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat the process six times alternately. This is one round. You can do three or four rounds.
After a month retain the breath as long as it is comfortable. This is Khumbak.
Building the pranayama slowly:
Inhale deeply through the left nostril, then retain the breath without strain, then exhale slowly through the right nostril.
Sukha Purvak Pranayama:
Inhale through the right nostril, retain the breath so long as you can do it comfortably, and then exhale through the left nostril. Repeat the process alternately. You can practise this daily. Begin with 12 rounds a day and then gradually increase the number according to your convenience and capacity.
Kumbhak bestows longevity, but it should be practised very gradually. To strain will have adverse reactions and results, not good.
The ratio of Sukha Purvaka is 1:4:2, which can be gradually increased to 16:64:32.
Do not retain the breath for more than one minute.
Do not attempt to maintain the ratio in the beginning. It will come by itself as you advance in your practice.
Lie down on your back. Relax your body and mind. Inhale deeply to the center of the pelvis; retain the breath without strain; and exhale slowly. Repeat OM mentally to the beat of your heart while inhaling, retaining and exhaling.
Sit in any comfortable pose. Inhale and exhale equally, very rapidly for ten seconds; then draw the breathe deeply quickly and exhale very slowly. This is one round. Do six such rounds. Bhastrika generates heat. This can be done with benefit in winter.
Prolonged practice of this Pranayama can cure asthma, consumption, and other diseases of the lungs.
Kapalabhati is like Bhastrika, but the exhalation is done with sudden and vigorous expulsion of breath and the inhale is passive. Exhale out all the way then relax the abdomen. The lungs fill naturally to the neutral tidal volume. Exhale that volume out again. There is no inhale happening via muscular contraction. It renovates the respiratory system and cleans the nasal passage. It has the same curative effect as Bhastrika.
Inhale slowly through both nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner, retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably, and exhale through both nostrils. While inhaling and exhaling, partially close the glottis. A mild and uniform sound is produced. This is Ujjayi. Ujjayi means VICTORY. The sound of the conch being blown is the sound of victory, get the similarity. Closing the glottis creates this sound. Just try it with a little more force. This removes heat in the head. The gastric fire is increased. Diseases of the throat and the lungs are also cured.
Fold the tongue so that the tip of the tongue might touch the upper palate, and draw the air through the mouth with a hissing sound. Retain the breath and exhale slowly through both nostrils. This is Sitkari. You can draw the breath through the mouth by clenching the teeth also: then retain the breath and exhale through the nose. Sitkari cools the system. It can be practised in summer. It removes hunger, thirst, indolence and sleep. It invigorates and strengthens the body.
Protrude the tongue a little away from the lips. Fold it like a tube or straw. Draw the air through the mouth with a hissing sound, then retain the breath, collect the saliva in your mouth and swallow it. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Sitali also cools the system. It purifies the blood. Its effects are like those of Sitkari.
Inhale through the left nostril. Close both the nostrils, retain the breath without strain. Then exhale slowly. You will have to increase the period of Kumbhak gradually. Surya Bheda Pranayama purifies and strengthens the brain cells, it cures rheumatic diseases and destroys intestinal worms.
This is a combination of Mula Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. This is practised during Pranayama while sitting in Siddhasan. Control the anus during inhalation (Mula Bandha). During Kumbhak press the chin against the chest (Jalandhara Bandha). Then raise the head, exhale and draw up the abdomen into the thoracic cavity (Uddiyana). Practise ten rounds of this. Bandhatraya Pranayama cures the diseases of the abdomen. It is helpful in maintaining Brahmacharya and can cure piles.
Kumbhak is of two kinds, viz., Sahita and Kevala. That which is coupled with inhalation and exhalation (as in Sukha Purvak) is termed Sahita. That which is devoid of these is called Kevala. When you get mastery over Sahita Kumbhak, you can attempt the Kevala. In due course of practice the Kumbhak will subsist without inhalation or exhalation.
Pranayama is not a bliss out exercise. You are to stay grounded and not float off into follies of the mind. It is only a step in the ladder and there are several more. To get high from pranayama stops your progress.
Brahmamuhurta is the period for exercising pranayama. It is 1.36 minutes (give or take) before the sun rise.
Practice Pranayama regularly in early morning, only ever on an empty stomach. This is the same for asana.
There should not be any strain in any stage of pranayama.
The room in which you practice pranayama must not be damp or ill-ventilated. It must be dry and airy.
You can practice pranayama by the side of a river or lake, in the corner of a garden, in open air when there is no draught of cold air but it is best to be practiced indoors.
Do not practice pranayama when the day is hot. Do not do heating pranayama in the summer (when the body is weak) or fall (when pitta is high).
If you perspire, rub it well on the body itself with your hands. This will give firmness and lightness to the constitution. This is inferior levels of the practice. Later at intermediate levels, there will be no sweating.
Practice a few rounds of pranayama before meditation. This will drive away tiredness and heaviness.
By the practice of pranayama, Rajas and Tamas, which cover Sattva, are removed. Asana is Rajasic.
Then the mind becomes fit for concentration.
Practice of Pranayama removes diseases of the body and renovates the cells, tissues and nerves.
It increases the power of memory and strengthens the intellect.
It calms the turbulent senses and checks the outgoing tendencies of the mind and the senses.
He who practices Pranayama will have good appetite, cheerfulness, a light and handsome body, good strength, a high standard of health, vigour, vitality and good concentration of mind.