Channeling of one’s mind and thoughts is one of the most important benefits of Pranayam. We know that thoughts are never steady and they travel faster than light. Pranayam is an easy method to control one’s mind. Daily practice of pranayam awakens one’s kundalini as well as chakras, and the practitioner eventually attains the state of samadhi.
We now begin with the eight Hathayoga pranayams. Suryabhedi pranayam is the first of these.
Sit comfortably in cross-legged position, with eyes closed. Make the pranayam mudra with your right hand and close your left nostril with your little finger and ring finger. Exhale slowly from your right nostril (called the `surya nadi’ in yogic terminology); then inhale as deeply as you can, with sound, with the same nostril. Now do jalandhar bandh and mulbandh, (Jalandhar Bandh – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward, Mulbandh- rectum is held upward) and press your stomach inside. Stay in this position as long as possible, then release bandh and exhale very slowly through the left nostril (called `chander nari’ ). This is one round of Suryabhedi pranayam. Repeat 8 to 10 times. Beginners should do this pranayam without holding the breath.
Benefits: It is helpful in constipation, indigestion, loss of appetite, heart diseases, low blood pressure, depression, cold & cough, and asthma. It is also a good exercise for cold days. Yogis in cold Himalayan region who practiced this pranayam saved themselves.
Caution: Do not practice it if you have high blood pressure or acidity, because it increases heat in the body.
Sit comfortably in cross-legged position, with eyes closed, inhale deeply, then exhale. Tighten your neck muscles and make a sound with your closed mouth, while inhaling. When lungs are full, practice jalandhar bandh, mulbandh and uddiayan bandh while holding your breath for as long as you can. (Mulbandh- rectum is held upward. Uddiyan Bandh- hold stomach inward and Jalandhar Bandh – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward) Then release bandh and make pranayam mudra with your right hand and close your right nostril. Now exhale with your left nostril very slowly. This is one round of Ujjayi Pranayam. It can be repeated for 10 times. Beginners should do this pranayam without holding the breath.
Benefits: Clears the throat, removes cough, cures snoring, is beneficial for thyroid problems. It removes all heart problems and strengthens the heart muscles. Regular practice of this pranayam prevents all cardio problems. It also improves mental health particularly of the nervous system.
Caution: It is very useful in heart disease, but heart patient needs to practice it without holding the breath.
Sit comfortably in cross-legged position, with eyes closed. inhale deeply, then exhale. Make your tongue rounded and put it out, inhale deeply through your tongue. Then do all three bandhas – jalandhar bandh, mulbandh and Uddiyan Bandh: (Mulbandh- rectum is held upward. Uddiyan Bandh- hold stomach inward and Jalandhar Bandh – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward) and hold in your breath for as long as you can. Then release all bandhas and exhale slowly through both your nostrils. This is called one round of Shitali Pranayam. Do this pranayam 8 – 10 times.
Benefits: This helps to cure acidity, hypertension, skin diseases and remove impurities in the blood. It is also beneficial for general fitness and gives a glow to the face. Its practice in hot summer days gives you a feeling of coolness.
Sit comfortably in cross-legged position. with eyes closed. inhale deeply, then exhale. Now clinch your teeth together. keep your tongue at the back of your teeth. Now, inhale deeply through your mouth. Then do Jalandhar Bandh. Mulband and Uddiyan Bandh. (Mulbandh- rectum is held upward. Uddiyan Bandh- hold stomach inward and Jalandhar Bandh – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward) Hold your breath in for as long as possible. Now release all bandhas and exhale slowly through both the nostrils. This is one round of Sitkari pranayam. Repeat this 8 – 10 times.
Benefits: This pranayam is very helpful in problems like- skin diseases, blood related problems, acidity. hypertension and bad breath. You also feel refreshed and it removes fatigue, lethargy or sleepiness. Practise of sitkari would help you control even hunger and thirst. It is very useful in summer days. Caution:: For the above two pranayams: Do not practice if you have cough, bad cold, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and low blood pressure; also do not practice on cold days. This is the fifth pranayam of hathayoga, the bhastrika pranayam.
Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position, with eyes closed. Now exhale deeply, then inhale to your maximum capacity with sound and force; then exhale in the same way. Do this process 30 to 40 times if you can; stop if you begin to feel uneasy. Now exhale completely. and make the pranayam mudra with your hands, by closing the middle and fore fingers. Close your left nostril with the thumb of your right hand. Inhale to your maximum capacity through your right nostril. Then do the three bandhas (`Jalandhar Bandh’ – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward, `Uddiyan Bandh’- hold stomach inward and `Mulbandh’ – rectum is held upward); and hold your breath as long as possible. Release bandhas and exhale slowly through left nostril. This is one round of Bhastrika pranayam. It can be practiced 3-4 times. Beginners should do only the first part of this pranayam. (i.e. the pranayam with both nostrils) After doing this relax for sometime with your eyes closed, till you feel yourself in a state of mind free of all thoughts.
Benefits: This is the only pranayam which removes all ailments related to the three doshas (vata- pitta-kapha). It is very good for one’s mental and physical health. It cures depression, tiredness, insomnia, phobia and anxiety. It gives one a feeling of calm and peace. It purifies the five bodies (annamay kosh, pranamay kosh, manomay kosh, vigyanmay kosh and anandmay kosh). It also awakens the chakras and kundalini, and unleashes one’s hidden power.
Cautions: Do not move while practicing bhastrika. Breath should be taken in through the lungs only, do not inflate your belly. Do not hold your breath if you have high blood pressure, heart diseases or neurological problems. Take care to breathe very slowly. This is the sixth pranayam of Hathayoga — which is the Bhramari pranayam — called so because of the sound produced during this pranayam — which is the droning sound of the female bee.
Sit comfortably in cross-legged position, with eyes closed and exhale. Now, inhale with tightened neck muscles, while producing a noise like the bhawra (male bee), with your mouth closed. Continue to inhale to your maximum capacity and do the Jalandhar Bandh, Mulbandh and Uddiyan Bandh (‘Jalandhar Bandh’ – pressurize muscles of neck and bend chin forward, ‘Uddiyan Bandh’- hold stomach inward and `Mulbandh’ – rectum is held upward). Hold your breath as long as possible. Then release bandhs, and breathe out slowly through the nostrils while producing a sound like the bhramari (female bee). Concentrate fully on this sound. Practice it repeatedly.
For beginners do simple bhramari. Sit comfortably, keep your back straight, now inhale to the maximum. Then exhale while producing the sound of bhramari through your nostrils. Fully concentrate on this sound. Close your ears with your thumbs and with the middle, ring and little fingers close your eyes. Do this process for 3 to 5 minutes. Benefits: This pranayam helps improve mental health. It removes tension, depression, fears, anxiety, stress, insomnia and restlessness. It also boosts one’s mental peace, serenity, happiness, improves concentration and spreads a feeling of love. Its practice enlightens agyan-chakra, which leads to dhyan and samadhi. Caution: Do not hold your breath if you have heart disease or hypertension. The last two pranayams of Hathayoga are Murchha pranayam and Plawini pranayam. These are generally not practiced by the sadhaka, hence will not be covered here.