6 June 2008
Fitness in every Breath
The following pranayama exercises are extremely effective in rejuvenating one’s health, says Namita Jain
What it means
Prana means life force and anayama means control. Pranayama means mastering the life force within. When consciously controlled, it has a powerful vitalising effect on the body, mind and spirit.
Pranayama helps to connect the body to its battery, the solar plexus, where tremendous potential energy is stored. When tapped through specific techniques this vital energy, or prana, is released for physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation. Regular practice removes obstructions, which impede the flow of vital energy. When the cells work in unison, they bring back harmony and health to the system.
Everything we do uses life force or prana–notice how fatiguing it is when an argument leaves you feeling drained. For most of us, this vital energy is constantly depleted and never recharged.
Fast, shllow breathing
The link between the mind and breathing is most significant. The Yogic sutras encourage practice of pranayama to calm the mind, especially before practising meditation. The first step is to create breath awareness. Here, awareness of the breath means keeping the mind alert, still and free of clutter.
During the practice the mind concentrates on inhalation, exhalation or retention of the breath. Different pranayamas emphasise different techniques. Inhalation supplies abundance of oxygen to the entire body. Exhalation expels waste products and toxins from the body. Retention is holding of the breath to gain control and prevent dissipation of energy.
- Pranayamas cause rhythmic expansion of the lungs, creating better circulation within the kidneys, liver, stomach, spleen, intestines, skin and other organs of the body.
- Oxygen is essential for efficient functioning of every body cell. It purifies the blood stream and therefore there is improvement in the quality of blood
- The mind is calm and able to concentrate better.
- Deep, slow breathing results in a stronger and more efficient working of the heart and lungs.
This breathing exercise uses the lower, mid and upper part of the respiratory muscles.
Start with abdominal breathing, followed by thoracic breathing and finally clavicle breathing. Reverse the order when you exhale.
- Increases lung capacity.
- Slows respiration rate.
- Calms the mind.
(Alternate Nostril Breathing)
This is a simple form of alternate nostril breathing. Nadi means ‘Channel’ and refers to the energy pathways through which the prana flows. Shodhana means ‘Cleansing’. Nadi shodhana means purification of nadis or channels.
Inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right, inhale through the right and exhale through the left. This is one round of breathing.
- Strengthens the nervous system.
- Helps conditions such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, and hypotension.
Kapala means skull and bhati means to purify. In this pranayama, through quick, rapid expulsions of the breath, the nasal passages are cleansed and purified.
Inhale deeply. Exhale partially with rapid movements of the abdomen.
- Increases oxygen and blood circulation to the head region.
- Tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
- Improves digestion and prevents constipation.
Brahmari means bee. The exhalation sound in this exercise is similar to a female bee.
Place the thumb on your ears, and inhale, then exhale making the sound of the humming bee.
- Nourishes and calms the brain cells.
- Soothes the nerves.
- Helps in treating insomnia.