3 Pranayama Techniques for Clarity, Energy and Relaxation

June 14, 2021, Publisher: Breath Hub

Yoga breathing techniques called pranayama use conscious breathing to strengthen and direct channels (Nadi) circulating throughout our energy body (pranayama kosha). Channelling the pranic energy, or life force energy provides physical and psychological purification. Breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. That is why in the yogic tradition, pranayama techniques are seen as the main techniques that create healthier bodies and more balanced minds, helping us find the harmony between the two and thereby forming the backbone of spiritual growth.

One of the building blocks of yoga practice, pranayama offers highly effective breathing techniques that we can use in our daily lives. Pranayama includes methods that we can use when we need more energy, when we need to balance our emotions or fall asleep quickly – increasing the quality of our life and making it a little bit easier. In this article, we’ll discuss three pranayama practices that you can turn to when you feel the need.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is often defined as breath control. However, ‘Prana’ itself is a wider term meaning ‘life force’ or ‘vital energy’. Therefore, breath control is so much more than just getting more oxygen. It refers to increasing and controlling the life force.

Pranayama uses breath to control the flow of prana by influencing the Nadis (energy channels) in the body layer called the ‘pranayama kosha’, or energy body. The breath acts as the key that balances and controls the body and the mind.

Key points about pranayama practice

Before moving onto the 3 Pranayama techniques, let’s talk about some of the points you need to pay attention to during practice:

  • Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your spine straight and your chin parallel to the ground.
  • Relax your body and observe the natural flow of your breath.
  • Breathe as deeply as possible.
  • Avoid practising right after a heavy meal.
  • Progress gradually without forcing yourself.
  • Breathe through your nose unless otherwise stated.
  • Make sure to take diaphragmatic breaths.

1.Starting the day with Surya Bhedana

In Sanskrit, the word ‘Surya’ represents the Sun’s masculine energy, whereas ‘Bhedana’ means to pierce, to separate, to cause a flow. This technique, known as Sun Piercing Breath,

  • activates and purifies the Pingala Nadi, which represents the masculine and analytical principle, and the left side of the brain.
  • activates physical functions, increases the body temperature, energy and vitality.
  • decreases depression and increases social interest and interaction, especially in introverts.
  • opens the mind to perception, provides sensory clarity.
  • aids with weight loss when practised regularly.

Precautions:

People with heart disease, epilepsy, hyperthyroidism, peptic ulcer and anxiety should avoid this practice. As it increases the temperature of the body, it should not be practised during a high fever.

Practice in the mornings on an empty stomach or at least 4-5 hours after eating. 10 rounds are enough for the first practice. In time, you can go up to 10 minutes – carefully and gradually.

Before you begin:

  • Breathe in through the right nostril, breathe out through the left.
  • The technique consists of breathing in, holding, breathing out and holding again. When you’re new to the practice, you can skip holding your breath.
  • The durations should be 1:1:1:1 in the beginning – you can, for example, breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4.
  • In later stages, you can extend the exhalation to be twice as long as the inhalation and hold your breath twice as long as the exhalation – so in a 1:4:2:4 ratio. (For example, breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 16, breathe out for a count of 8, and hold for 16.)

How to practice Surya Bhedana Pranayama

  • Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your spine straight and your chin parallel to the ground.
  • Focus on your breath until it slows down on its own.
  • Use the ring finger of your right hand to cover the left nostril, and use your right thumb to cover the right.
  • Cover the left nostril and inhale deeply through the right nostril.
  • Cover both and hold your breath.
  • Exhale slowly through your left nostril.
  • Cover both and hold your breath. 
  • Start again from the top and repeat it for 10 rounds.

2. Relax and focus with Chandra Bhedana

In Sanskrit, the word ‘Chandra’ represents the Moon’s feminine energy. Also known as the ‘Moon Piercing Breath’, this technique is the opposite of the Surya Bhedana.

  • It activates and purifies the Ida Nadi, which represents the feminine and creative energy, and the right side of the brain.
  • It provides physical relaxation, lowers body temperature, and balances blood pressure.
  • It helps decrease tension and stress.
  • It creates mental clarity and improves focus.

Precautions:

People with epilepsy, low blood pressure and heart disease should avoid this practice. In addition, it is not advised to practice Chandra Bhedana and Surya Bhedana back-to-back. As this practice lowers the body temperature, it should be avoided when you have a cold and in cold temperatures.

Before you begin:

  • Breathe in through your left nostril and breathe out through the right.
  • Follow the details of Surya Bhedana for the rest.

How to practice Chandra Bhedana Pranayama

  • Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your spine straight and your chin parallel to the ground.
  • Focus on your breath until it slows down on its own.
  • Use the ring finger of your right hand to cover the left nostril, and use your right thumb to cover the right.
  • Inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • Cover both and hold your breath.
  • Exhale slowly through your right nostril.
  • Cover both and hold your breath.
  • Start again from the top.

3. Deep sleep with Sheetkari (Shitkari) Pranayama

In Sanskrit, Sheetkari means hissing. It gets its name from the sound that comes out during the inhalation. This technique,

  • Calms down the mental and emotional activity.
  • Lowers the body temperature and blood pressure, relaxes the muscles and body.
  • Gives mental serenity and peace.
  • Helps control stress, worry and anger.
  • When practised in the evening hours, it makes it easier to fall asleep, increases sleep quality, and is also effective against sleep disorders like insomnia as it calms you down.

Precautions:

This technique involves using your teeth and therefore is not recommended to those with tooth sensitivity or prosthesis. Instead, they can either use a straw or practice Sheetali pranayama that includes rolling your tongue.

It’s not recommended in the cases of low blood pressure and respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. For those with heart diseases, it can be practised without holding your breath. As it lowers the body temperature, practice with caution on very cold days.

Before you begin:

  • Follow your regular breathing rhythm, slowly extend your inhalations and exhalations.
  • Once you’re used to the practice, add a 2-second breath-hold after the inhalation.
  • Start with 5 rounds of practice and gradually increase to 15. On very hot days, you can go up to 60 rounds.

How to practice Sheetkari Pranayama

  • Bring your teeth closer with only a slight gap in between and part your lips.
  • Slowly breathe through your teeth.
  • Close your mouth.
  • Exhale through your nose.