Pranayam Types, Practices & Health
Self-supervised breathing and holding the breath after inspiration (shwas) or expiration (prashwas) is called pranayam. It has a positive impact on the health of an individual because even many involuntary functions of the body also come under wilful control of the yogi.
Yoga Darshan describes generically four types of pranayam viz: Bahyavritti, Abhyantervritti, Stambhvritti and Bahyanter–Vishyapakshi. During pranayam practice, it is advised to consciously tighten the anal outlet (Mool Bandh); constricting the abdomen backwards (Uddiyan Bandh) and close the chest after full breath by tightly pressing the chin over chest (Jalandhar Bandh). In the first pranayam type, one has to exhale completely and apply Mool Bandha, Uddiyan Bandh and Jalandhar Bandh, while maintaining this status. In the second type, after expiration one should breath-in deeply and hold it, while maintaining Mool and Jaladhar Bandh. In the third type one should hold the breath in either situation and apply all the three Bandh. In the fourth type one has to draw Apaan Vaayu in the nostrils and make Praan Vaayu to confront it here and hold it for maximum time. This last one is very difficult to practice and is possible only under the guidance of an accomplished Guru.
Based on the above principles, experts also advise different pranayam for different achievements. Main types are: Naadi Shodhan, Kapaalbhanti, Anulom Vilom, Bhastrika, Bhramri, Bahya and many more. Each one of them affects a specific class of body functions. Their regular practice, under the guidance of an experienced teacher, gives desired outcomes. Pranayam is also advised to be practiced by focussing on various body Chakras (cosmic communication centres of physical body; which are seven in number), as their activation further helps in achieving the over-all body control.
There could be many variations of pranayam, depending on the required applications, based on the four generic types. Slow but deep breathing with complete breathing-in or breathing-out, while maintaining the three Bandh is the basic principle of this very vital yogic process. It also needs a cool mind with a focus on the breath or Aajna Chakra.
As any other function of the human body, pranayam is also a subtle but very coordinated and rewarding technique, which should be mastered for developing much desired self control. It involves physical as well as mental efforts to practice this science and art of attaining eternal bliss. Purification and rejuvenation of the body, at even sub-cellular level, is the natural by-product of this yogic technique. It opens the gates of the hidden treasure of strength and bliss, integrated and compressed in this human body, in the form of Kundilini. A regular and dedicated practice of this unique science, under the supervision of an accomplished teacher, can yield unprecedented dividends, for a self-confident, inspiring, rewarding and purposeful human life. Medical scientists of the west, have many documented studies, showing impact of different pranayam on different diseases. Only precondition appears to be a genuine longing for the same.
Should such a unique and transforming “Art-of-Life” be a matter of deeper interest, it could be an issue, worth considering by every serious spiritual seeker.
By Dr Dipak Shukla