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Yoga Breathing Techniques

1. DEERGHA SWAASAM (DEEP BREATHING)Technique:
Exhale slowly through the nose. At the end of the exhalation, pull the abdomen in slightly. Then inhale slowly. Begin by releasing the abdomen and allowing it to expand fully. Continue to inhale while expanding the lower chest and then the upper chest until the collarbones rise slightly. The abdominal muscles will automatically slightly contract as the chest becomes full. Soon after, without holding the breath, exhale slowly. First drop the col H. arbones, then contract the chest, and then the stomach, one section flowing into the other. In both the inhalation and the excalation, the breath should be one continuous flow. Repeat this breathing slowly and steadily.

Benefits:
This method of three-part deep breathing fills the lungs to capacity and empties them thoroughly, enabling you to supercharge the system with seven times as much oxygen and prana as in a normal breath.

2. NAADI SUDDHI (NERVE PURIFICATION)

Technique:
This is the same as deep breathing, but you alternate thc nostrils.

Stage 1- Make a gentle fist with the right hand, releasing the tht: mb and the last two fingers. This is the Vishnu Mudra. It is used when alternating or closing off the nostrils in pranayama. Now, close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale slowly through the left as much air as possible without any strain. At the end of the exhalation, slowly, without any sudden jerk, start inhaling through the same, left nostril.Take a slow, steady, three-part deep breath. At the end of the inhalation, gently change the nostrils by closing the left nostril with the last two fingers, releasing the thumb, and exhaling through the right nostril. Start the exhalation slowly and steadily, without any sudden jerk. Exhale completely, pulling the abdomen in slightly at the end to expel the maximum amount of air. Now inhale through the right nostril, close it off, and then exhale through the left. This constitutes one round. Repeat this process as many times as feels comfortable, employing the slow, three-part deep breathing. The pattern is: exhale, inhale, switch nostrils.

Stage 2- When you are comfortable with the practice, you can begin to make the exhalation take longer than the inhalation, s]Lowly creating a ratio of 1:2, so that the exhalation takes twice as long as the inhalation. For example, if you inhaled for a count of five, you would exhale for a count of ten. You can mentally count a.,,.~ you do the breathing. Count “OM 1, OM 2, OM 3, etc.,” instead of simply, “1, 2., 3.” This will give you an accurate second count, as well as the added beneficial vibration.

Once you’ve established a 1:2 ratio, practice at a given count until you can comfortably do at least ten rounds in a sitting. Then, increase the count by one. For example, if you are breathing at a 5:10 count, once you can comfortably do ten rounds in a sitting, increase the count to 6:12. Then practice at the new count until you can comfortably do at least ten rounds in a sitting. In the same manner, increase the count to 7:14, 8:16, 9:18, and lastly to 10:20. After reaching 10:20, don’t increase the count, but simply increase the number of rounds per sitting.

Once you reach this final stage of Naadi Suddhi, and only then, are you, ready to begin the practice of retention. When you develop your practice of Naadi Suddhi in this slow, systematic way, the entire system gets purified and strengthened, making it fit for retention of the breath. So you should not practice Sukha Purvaka or Bastrika until you’ve developed your Naadi Suddhi to this point. If you ignore this caution, you could cause harm to your body and mind. But if you take your time and build slowly, you will enjoy enormous benefits.

Benefits:
Naadi Suddhi brings lightness of body, alertness of mind, good appetite, proper digestion, and sound sleep.

3. SUKHA PURVAKA (EASY, COMFORTABLE BREATH)

Technique:
When you can comfortably practice Naadi Suddhi at a 10:20 count for ten rounds in a sitting, you can add a retention after the inhalation. This is then Sukha Purvaka. The pattern is: exhale, inhale, retain, switch nostrils.

Begin with a retention of five, so that your count is 10:5:20, inhaling to ten and exhaling to twenty. With this ratio, do several rounds, and gradually, week by week, increase the number of breaths till you can comfortably do at least ten rounds in a sitting.

Then, increase the count to 10:10:20. Again, start with several rounds and gradually work up to at least ten rounds in a sitting. In this manner, gradually increase the retention in increments of five, till you reach forty, so the final count would be 10:40:20. The inhalation remains at ten, and the exhalation at twenty. This final count should be reached very slowly; it may even take several years to attain. After this is reached, you keep the same count, but increase the number of rounds per sitting. At no time as you develop your practice should there be the least strain in the system. The flow of the breath should remain slow arid steady, and there should be no dizziness or discomfort.

Benefits:
Sukha Purvaka has all the benefits of Naadi Suddhi, plus it enriches the quality of the blood and ensures perfect physical health. The mind becomes very Clear and steady, enabling good concentration.

4. KAPAALABHAATI (SKULL SHINING)

Technique:
This is rapid diaphragmatic breathing. Have a forceful exhalation caused by snapping the abdomen inward, and then an equally forceful inhalation caused by snapping the abdomen outward. Alternate the forceful exhalation and inhalation as many times as you can comfortably do. After the last expulsion, inhale deeply using the three-part breath and exhale as slowly as is comfortable. This constitutes one round.

Do, three rounds. Start with a few expulsions per round, and gradually increase the number according to your capacity. Do not hurry this breathing at any point. If dizziness occurs, discontinue and let the breath return to normal. Between rounds, take a few normal breaths.

Benefits:
Kapaalabhaati is so called because it cleanses the naadis in the skull. It helps to burn out the excess mucous that causes sinus problems and allergies. Strictly speaking, Kapaalabhaati is a kriya or cleansing practice, but it is included in the pranayama section because it is helpful in learning Bastrika.

5. BASTRIKA (BELLOWS BREATHING)

Technique:
This, also, is rapid diaphragmatic breathing. Have a forceful exhalation caused by snapping the abdomen inward as in Kapaalabhaati, but for the inhalation, simply relax the abdomen and let the air return naturally. So there is a series of forced exhalations, followed by relaxed, natural inhalations. After the last expulsion, inhale deeply using the three-part breath. Retain the breath while bending the neck, bringing the chin as close to the chest as possible. This is called Jaalandhra Bandha or the Chin Lock. Then raise the head slowly and exhale slowly and evenly through the nose. This constitutes one round.

Do three rounds. Start with a few expulsions per round, and gradually increase the number according to your capacity. Do not hurry this breathing at any point, nor retain the breath beyond your capacity. If the breath comes rushing out on the exhalation, then you’ve held the retention too long. If dizziness occurs, discontinue and let the breath return to normal. Between rounds, take a few normal breaths.

Benefits:
Bastrika exhilarates the blood circulation and stimulates the entire body quickly. It brings heat to the body when it is cold, and can be used to help keep the body warm during the winter. It improves digestion, removes phlegm, and helps in curing asthma and consumption. It builds up and strengthens the entire respiratory system.

6. SITALI (COOLING BREATH)

Technique:
First, exhale completely through the nose. Then, curl the tongue lengthwise like a tube. Project the tip of the tongue outside the mouth. Draw the air in through the tube with a hissing sound, concentrating on the cooling feeling. Fill the lungs completely. Draw in the tongue, close the mouth, and retain the air for a few seconds. Then, have a slow, complete exhalation through the nose. This constitutes one round. Do up to three rounds. The rounds can be in succession; you needn’t take normal breaths between the rounds.

Benefits:
Sitali is very useful for cooling the body. It helps to remove heat, thirst, hunger, and sleep. It can be practiced more in the summer to cool down the system, and it can even be used to bring down a fever.

7. SITKAARI (WHEEZING BREATH)

Technique:
First, exhale completely through the nose. Then, curl the tip of the tongue back so that it touches the upper palate. Gently clench the teeth. Suck in the breath through the clenched teeth with a hissing sound. Fill the lungs completely. Hold for a few seconds, and then have a slow, complete exhalation through the nose. This constitutes one round. Do up to three rounds. The rounds can be in succession; you needn’t take normal breaths between the rounds.

Benefits:
The same as for Sitali, as well as strengthening the gums.

8. BRAHMARI (HUMMING BEE)

Technique: Inhale through the nostrils, filling the lungs completely. Exhale, making a humming sound. Feel the vibration on or behind the soft palate. You can repeat several times, varying the pitch with each round. Have a low pitch on the first round, then make the pitch higher on subsequent rounds, and then back to very low on the last round.

Benefits:
Brahmari tones the vocal chords and creates sound vibrations for concentration.

9. UJJAYI (HISSING BREATH)

Technique:
After a complete exhalation, inhale slowly and evenly while partially closing the glottis so that a continuous, soft hissing sound is heard within the head. The sound should be of even pitch and intensity throughout. Avoid all friction in the nose as you expand the lungs to capacity. Then exhale completely, producing the hissing sound in the same manner.

Benefits:
Ujjayi increases the control over the breath and is an aid to concentration. It relieves heat in the head and increases the digestive fire. It helps in the cure of asthma, consumption, and other pulmonary diseases. It adds luster to the face.