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By Gopi Rao
Pranayama refers to the deep and deliberate breathing associated with yoga. More specifically, pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “control of the life force.” Pranayama is often referred to as breath control, or yogic breathing. Pranayama techniquess are beneficial in keeping the body healthy and free of toxins.
Bhastrika pranayama directly affects the lungs, curing any ailments associated with the respiratory system. It is recommended to aid in curing ailments from the common cold, to heart disease and paralysis. Bhastrika should be practiced every day, from two minutes to five minutes. To perform Bhastrika, sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Breathe in through the nose forcefully, filling up the lungs completely, then immediately and with equal force release the air from the lungs. Repeat the process several times, stopping if you feel tired.
Kapalbhati will improve the health of the entire body, and can even aid in curing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and asthma. It is best to practice Kapalbhati in the morning, on an empty stomach. Sit comfortably with a straight spine. To practice Kapalbhati pranayama, inhale normally and exhale forcefully. Use the abdominal muscles to pull the air in and push it out. As you exhale, it is helpful to visualize you are throwing all of the negative energy, disease, anger, or stress from the body.
Bahya is helpful for all of the stomach’s organs, and can benefit hernia, diabetes, uterus, or prostrate problems. Sit comfortably in lotus pose. Breathe in deeply, then push all of the air completely out of the lungs. Then, with the breath still “outside” the body, touch your chin to your chest and pull up the diaphragm and groin muscles, holding for up to 10 to 15 seconds. Release the groin, diaphragm and chin one by one and breathe normally to complete the pranayama. Repeat one to three times a day.
Ujjayi pranayama is used to clear toxins from the body, and is good for thyroid problems or throat diseases. Sit in a comfortable position. Take a long, thin breath by constricting the throat while you inhale through both nostrils. This will produce a hissing sound as the air travels up the throat. Then, exhale slowly, and repeat three times a day. After a few days’ practice, you can hold your breath in after the slow inhale and touch the chin to the side of the chest and hold for up to 10 seconds. Then, close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale slowly through the left nostril only.