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Pranayama  is the fourth limb in Astanga Yoga. Pranayama is the science of cleansing, balancing and gaining control over the Prana in the human system.

So what is Prana?  Prana is the basic entity from which the universe is made. It cannot be explained or controlled. It must be experienced by the continuous practice. The meaning of Prana is 'energy' or 'life force' and ayama means 'extension' or 'stretch'. In another way pranayama is the energy management.

According to Patanjali, Pranayama is the science of harnessing the breath for gaining control over the Prana and thereby, on the mind. Five identified types of prana are Vyana, Udana, Samana, Prana and Apana.

Pranayama has lots of benefits. At the same time if it is not done properly it could be dangerous. So it is always advised to learn pranayama from a well known practitioner or teacher who knows the correct method. Because if the foundation is perfect, then you can go for the higher levels by reading and practising.

Concept of Pranayama: In a simple way, mastery over Prana is Pranayama. Pranayama is wide area and under this, different yoga techniques are performed. Also Prana involves other five pranas or pancha pranas. They are as follows.

  • Prana --------> Conventional Pranayama and Trataka
  • Samana --------> Kriyas and Bandhas
  • Apana --------> Kriya Yoga and Bandhas
  • Vyana --------> Shavasana, Yoganidra and Mudras
  • Udana --------> Kundalini Yoga

Before starting the practice of Pranayama, these following points to be noted.

  1. Pranayama can be practiced before or after taking bath.
  2. Have a light stomach while practicing Pranayama. Or wait for at least four hours after meals before you begin Pranayama.
  3. Wear loose clothing.
  4. Always spine, neck and head should be kept erect and centered. Vajrasana or Padmasana are the best poses for pranayama.
  5. Always practice Pranayama with the relaxed mind. Be sure to practice regularly and don't stop the practice unless you are seriously ill.
  6. Lastly, too much is always bad. So don't increase your pranayama practice for indiscriminately. Slow and steady always wins the race.

Simple Pranayama Techniques:

Anuloma and Viloma: Anuloma means breathing in and Viloma means breathing out.

Sukha Pranayama:

Sit comfortably in any posture; preferably in padmasana or vajrasana. Relax the whole body. Gently close your eyes and keep relaxed smiling face.

Inhale slowly and feel the whole body is energized. Enjoy this inhalation.

Then slowly exhale effortlessly. Feel the whole body is relaxed.

This can be done several rounds or several times a day, which reduces the stress and tension.


Both inhalation and exhalation through the left nostril is called Chandranuloma. Left nostril is called Chandra Nadi, so this breathing is called Chandranuloma.

Right nostril is kept closed all the time using the right thumb which is in Nasik Mudra.


As right nostril is called Surya Nadi, this breathing is called Suryanuloma. Here both inhalation and exhalation are carried out through the right nostril only, keeping the left nostril closed all the time.

These pranayamas help in clearing up the nasal congestion. It is also believed that Suryanuloma is helpful in reducing obesity and Chandranuloma in gaining weight.

Some other pranayama techniques are Nadi Suddhi, Sectional Breathing - Abdominal, Thorasic and Clavicular, Yogic Breathing, Seetali, Seetkari, Bhramari and Bastrika which must be taught by a experienced person. Pranayama is very helpful for the people who are suffering from nasal congestion, sinus problem and frequent cold problems.

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