Home Beauty & Wellness Powerful pranayamas to practice during the pandemic

Powerful pranayamas to practice during the pandemic

by Aiden

Learn how to harness the ‘breath of life.’

By Nishaa Bhojwani

Breathing is something we do involuntarily, whether we are awake, sleeping, or actively exercising; a vital function of life. In yoga, we refer to this as pranayamaPrana is a Sanskrit word that means ‘life force,’ and ayama means extending or stretching. Thus, the word ‘pranayama’ loosely translates to ‘control of life force,’ aka breath.

Without knowing the science behind it, ancient yogis learned to harness the power of breath and developed an entire method of yogic breathing. In fact, they found breath to be so important that they named it as one of the eight limbs of yoga. Modern yoga tends to focus more on the postures, but the Yoga Sutras rarely mention the physical asanas at all, instead focusing on freeing the mind through the use of meditation and pranayama.

While pranayama is a powerful tool that is often overlooked in westernised yoga studios and classes, these ancient breathing techniques can easily be incorporated into your practice. Research shows that these techniques can reduce stress, aid in digestion, improve sleep, and cool you down, and regularly practicing them can increase overall physical and mental health.

Below are five pranayamas we recommend practicing daily. Remember to do them sitting in Sukhasana, the cross- legged position, or Padmasana, the lotus position, with your back straight and eyes closed. Think positive thoughts, and focus on your breathing. Increase the number of cycles as you perform these exercises regularly.

Note: Always check with your doctor before performing any pranayamas, as they may advise against doing some if you suffer from certain health issues.

1. ANULOM-VILOM

This is also known as Nadi Shdodhana (alternate nostril breathing)

What it does

Helps normalise blood pressure, aids in blood purification, reduces risk of heart disease, and can also improve sight.

How to do it

Use your right thumb to shut your right nostril. Inhale slowly through your left nostril, taking in as much air as you can to fill your lungs. Remove your thumb from your right nostril and exhale. Use your middle finger to close your left nostril and inhale with your right nostril. Keep swapping sides.

Reps

Perform for two to five minutes

2. BHRAMARI

This derives its name from the Bhramari, the black Indian bee, as the exhalation resembles the typical humming sound of a bee.

What it does

Calms your mind down instantly and is one of the best breathing exercises to de-stress, as it rids the mind of frustration, anxiety, anger or agitation.

How to do it

Shut your ears with your thumbs and place your index fingers on your temples. Close your eyes with your other three fingers. Gently inhale through your nose and hold for a few seconds. Keeping your mouth closed, exhale by making a humming sound.

Reps

Five times

3. UJJAYI PRANAYAMA

Also known as ‘victorious breath’ or ‘ocean breath,’ this breathing technique involves a soft hissing sound during inhalation.

What it does

The sound vibrations that are a part of this pranayama sharpen the focus of your mind, and can help cure thyroid problems and reduce snoring.

How to do it

Begin by inhaling and exhaling naturally. Bend your head, blocking the free flow of air, and inhale as long as you can, making a sound from your throat. Hold for two to five seconds. Close your right nostril with your right thumb while exhaling, and breathe out through your left nostril.

Reps

10 to 12 times

4. KAPALBHATHI

Known as the ‘skull shining’ breathing technique, this intensive deep breathing exercise is synonymous with Baba Ramdev for most of us!

What it does

Improves the functioning of all abdominal organs, reduces belly fat, promotes quick weight loss, and balances sugar levels in your body.

How to do it

This breathing technique involves passive inhalation and active exhalation. Inhale normally, breathing in as much air as you can, and exhale forcefully. Try and pull your stomach muscles as closely as you can towards your backbone during exhalation.

Reps

Perform for two to five minutes

5. BHASTRIKA

This exercise clears up your respiratory system and is characterised by sounds like a crackling flame.

What it does

Strengthens your lungs, burns excess fat, improves your physical and mental abilities, and clears the windpipe.

How to do it

Take a deep breath in, inhaling as much air as you can and expanding your stomach, and lift both your arms up. Exhale the air out with force, bringing down both your arms at the same time, and pull your navel in towards your backbone.

Reps

Repeat for one to two minutes and rest for a while afterwards

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