All You Have to Know about Pranayama Breathing

Have you ever paid attention to your breathing patterns? Breathing is an involuntary action which occurs whether you’re awake, sleeping, active or inactive. There are plenty of breathing techniques that are known to help reduce stress, aid in digestion, improve sleep and calm you down. Pranayama breathing happens to be one of them. Multiple people who have practiced this routine say that it really works well for the overall well-being. That being said, here’s more about pranayama breathing.

What’s Pranayama

Pranayama is controlled breathing that originated from the ancient Indian community. It involves things like breath retention and deliberate inhalation and exhalation for specific mental and physical benefits.

The commonly practiced form of pranayama requires one to sit comfortably on the ground and using your right thumb and index finger, close one nostril at a time while inhaling and exhaling. The oxygen activates both the right side of the brain which is the source of creativity and imagination.

Plus, it decreases the effects of stress on the body and improves overall health. Pranayama is divided into several types with the most beneficial exercises being; Nadhi, Kapalabhati, Ujjayi and Sitali Pranayama – all of which provide similar benefits but differ according to how they are done.
Here are instructions on how to practice different Pranayama.

1. Nadhi Pranayama

Also referred to as alternative nostril breathing, Nadhi exercise promotes relaxed, balanced breathing that helps calm the nervous system and aids in a night of restful sleep. It increases oxygen levels in the body which is believed to purify the blood, calm the mind, reduce stress and enhance concentration.

How to do it: Nadhi pranayama can be done while sitting or lying down. Start by emptying all air from the lungs, then use your thumb to cover your right nostril and inhale through the left nostril only. Let the air reach the belly, not the chest. Whenever you’re full of breath, block the left nostril with the ring finger of the same hand. Keep the right nostril closed and hold your breath for a moment. Release the thumb and exhale with the right nostril alone. Ensure you breath out all the air on the right side and pause before inhaling again. To complete a cycle of breath, ensure to inhale and exhale through both nostrils. This practice can be done at any time of the day.

2. Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is both a pranayama exercise and an internal kriya or cleansing technique. Its practitioners believe that it helps clear mucus in the air passages, relieve congestion, reduce bloating and improve lung capacity. Kapalabhati can be a bit of invigorating form of breathing that leads to heat build-up in the body.

How to do it: sit in a comfortable seat with a tall, straight spine and exhale completely. Take a deep breath through the two nostrils and exhale sharply while pulling your navel in toward the spine. The inhalation is short and passive while exhalation is short and quick but very active. Again, exhale while pulling the navel in and soften it as you inhale. Start small with 15 rounds then work your way up. This routine is great in the morning when you’re feeling chilly. Also, whenever you fill congested or bloated, Kapalabhati can help to relieve it, but avoid doing it on a full stomach. Additionally, pregnant ladies and people suffering from blood pressure or heart conditions should avoid it.

3. Ujjayi

People call ujjayi pranayama ocean breath due to the sound it creates. It encourages the full expansion of the lungs and by focusing your attention on the breathing, you’re able to calm your mind.

How to do it: sit down comfortably with a straight spine. Inhale through both nostrils until you reach your lung capacity while maintaining a tall spine. Hold the breath for a second, then constrict some of the breath at the back of the throat as if you were about to whisper a secret, and exhale slowly through both nostrils. When exhaling you might hear waves like sound or a gentle rush of air. Repeat the routine for 10 minutes.

4. Sitali

Sitali means cooling which clears heat with coolness. It’s especially helpful during summer and in hot climates.

How it works: roll the tongue to form a tube-like shape or make an oval shape with your mouth, keeping the tongue flat. Inhale through the mouth and take in all the air that you can. Then stretch your tube-like shaped tongue out to seal your lips. Experience the coolness of inhalation and exhale through the nose. In case the weather is heated and you feel irritable, Sitali can help you cool down faster.


Pranayama mainly focuses on restoring breathing balances which is helpful for good health. Generally, breathing exercises aren’t that complicated, but they are as important as adopting the proper poses in yoga.

All images by Pixabay


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