We all breathe, but how many of us breathe right? Hardly a few. Breathing is one of those our involuntary activities. Just take a moment, now, to observe the way you are breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Is it long or short? Is it difficult or easy? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth?
In sanskrit the word for health is “Swasthya” which has a profound meaning. It is made of two root sanskrit words – “Swa” or the Self and “Stha” meaning centered. So swasthya can be roughly translated as “Centered in one’s own Self”. In the Indian System, the Self is described as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss. This is the true nature of every being. Any deviation from this state of well-being can be considered as a disease.
Pranayama is the yogic science of breath control. Yoga teaches that breathing can be regulated and controlled for various health and spiritual benefits.
Sheetkari Pranayama or the Hissing Breath is ususally done after practicing other asanas and pranayamas. Sheetkari Pranayama cools the body. Sheetkari pranayama is mentioned in the yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradeepika.
Sheetali Pranayama or the cooling breath is usually done after practicing other asanas and pranayamas. Sheetali Pranayama cools the body. Sheetali in sanskrit means ‘cooling’. Sheetali pranayama is mentioned in the yoga texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Gheranda Samhita.
Bhramari Pranayama or the humming Bee Breath produces a sound similar to the humming of a bee. Bhramari comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Bramar’ which means a kind of black Indian bee. Bhramari pranayama has a soothing effect on the brain and calms the mind.
Ujjayi Prananaya or the psychic breath soothes the mind and induces a meditative state. Ujjayi means to ‘lift up’. In Ujjayi pranayama, the chest is slightly lifted up as if the inhalation is done from the throat.
Surya Bheda Pranayama or Surya Bhedana Pranayama is one of the main pranayamas practiced with Kumbhaka. Surya means the sun. In Surya Bheda Pranayama the Surya Nadi or the right nostril channel is activated. Surya Bheda Pranayama is mentioned in the yoga texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and the Gheranda Samhita.
Anulom Vilom Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing exercise is one of the main practices of Pranayama. Anulom Vilom Pranayama is mentioned in the yogic texts Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Gheranda Samhita, Tirumandiram, Siva Samhita, Puranas and in the Upanishads.
Bhastrika Pranayama or the Bellow’s Breath is one of the main forms of Pranayama. In Sanskrit, Bhastrika means the ‘bellows ’. Just as the blacksmith blows his bellows to create heat and purify iron, Bhastrika is said to purify the mind and clear pranic blocks.