Thursday, 9 February 2012

Pranayama Breathing Exercises |

Pranayama Breathing Exercises Photo Credit yoga #5 image by Adam Borkowski from

Pranayama refers to breathing exercises included in the practice of yoga. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, pranayama can help increase blood circulation and deliver more oxygen to the brain. As you gain more control of your breath, you also increase your lung capacity, which can increase your mental alertness and focus. Practicing pranayama may also help relieve stress.

Ujjayi Breathing

Ujjayi breathing, also known as conqueror breath, is the type of breath practiced in most yoga classes. Ujjayi breathing also forms the basis for other types of pranayama exercises. Whereas other breathing exercises are typically performed either before or after an asana practice, ujjayi breathing is carried all the way through a yoga class to help keep the breath slow and steady and the mind focused. In ujjayi breathing, the breath passes through the back part of the throat, creating a soft audible sound. To create this quality, exhale through the mouth as though you were fogging up a mirror. Then try creating the same sensation while exhaling with your lips sealed. The sound of ujjayi breathing should be natural and never strained.

Breath Retention

Some pranayama exercises involve holding the breath for several seconds after an inhalation or an exhalation. According to Holistic Online, holding the breath in the lungs for 10 to 20 seconds helps maximize the exchange of gases, allowing for increased oxygenation of the blood and a greater release of toxins that have accumulated in the lungs. In breath retaining exercises, the breath is held four times longer than the inhalation, and the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. To practice breath retention, sit up straight and inhale for four seconds, then hold the breath for 16 seconds. If this is too difficult at first, begin by holding your breath for eight seconds and work on gradually increasing the time. Exhale for eight seconds. Do this exercise just once during your practice to start, and work your way up to three times.


Kapalabhati breathing uses forceful exhalations and passive inhalations to purify the body. According to Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, kapalabhati breathing strengthens the circulatory and respiratory systems and removes impurities from the blood. To practice kapalabhati breathing, sit in a comfortable position, either in lotus pose or kneeling. You may want to face a mirror so that you can observe the contraction of your abdominal muscles. Exhale forcefully, contracting the abdominal muscles. Repeat 10 to 15 times in rapid succession. The inhalation with happen automatically. At the end of one round, take a deep breath and hold it for several seconds. Practice three rounds of kapalabhati breathing to start with, and gradually work your way up to five or six.


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