Pranayama exercises: technique and tips

Sun salutation, warrior and Co.: Everyone has probably heard of common yoga poses. In fact, yoga is not only about physical exercises, but also about the so-called pranayama. Does that all sound very esoteric to you? It's not, because in this area of ​​yoga the focus is solely on breathing and thus a very practical aspect. You can find out here why you benefit so much from regular pranayama practices!

Pranayama yoga

Pranayama - what is it actually?

The term is made up of prana (life energy/breathing) and ayama (mastering, controlling). So pranayama simply means controlling the life energy , and this is done, for example, through breathing exercises.

Yoga comes into play in that the physical exercises (asanas) are aligned with and supported by breathing. In yoga, the breathing technique is fundamentally more important than physical movement. Long story short: How you feel can be significantly influenced by correct breathing .

What is full breathing?

Full breathing, also called full yogic breathing, consists of four basic phases :

  • breathe in
  • Break
  • Exhale
  • Break

Basically, you should always breathe out longer than you breathe in . In everyday life we ​​breathe in and out again automatically, while full breathing is about taking conscious breaks. Here abdominal breathing is combined with side and lung breathing. Sound complicated? Is not it! Just follow the steps below:

  • Sit up straight.
  • Place your hands on your stomach and become aware of your breathing.
  • Place your hands on your side and notice the natural breathing movements here as well.
  • Place your hands just below your collarbones and focus on the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Once you have a feel for all three breathing zones, move on to the next step.
  • Put your hands on your lap and continue to relax your breathing.
  • As you inhale, consciously let the air flow into your stomach, flanks and under your collarbone.
  • When exhaling, the air is allowed to flow out of all areas at the same time.

You can repeat this cycle as many times as you like, but only if it doesn't involve any effort for you. As soon as you feel cramped or not getting enough air, just go back to normal breathing.

Pranayama: the best breathing exercises

Depending on which breathing technique you choose, you can achieve different effects . Whether stress, fear, anger, nervousness or pain: there is almost no area in which you cannot improve something with breathing techniques.

alternating breathing

How it works:

Alternating breathing is calming, decelerates and helps against stress and nervousness. When you exhale for a long time, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which lowers blood pressure and slows the heartbeat. A distinction is made between alternating breathing with and without breathing pauses (Nadi Shodana / Anuloma Viloma).

That's how it's done:

  • Find a comfortable sitting position.
  • Fold the index and middle fingers of your right hand into the palm of your hand so you can use your thumb, ring finger, and pinky to seal a nostril.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb and count to 5 as you inhale.
  • Close your left nostril with the other two fingers and count to 10 as you exhale.

This breathing exercise works best with 10 to 20 repetitions. You should only take breaks if you already have some practice, otherwise you might get short of breath and get even more stressed instead of calming down. With breaks you can stick to the rhythm 4-16-8.

Nose breathing / Ujjayi

How it works:

Breathing through the nose creates a sound that is reminiscent of the gentle sound of the sea and has a calming effect. Your brain is supplied with more oxygen, so that you also gain energy and concentration.

That's how it's done:

  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • As you exhale, imagine you are breathing on a mirror, but keep your mouth closed. There is a slight hissing noise in the throat.
  • When you feel ready, you can now include the whoosh as you inhale as well. Let your breath lengthen and slacken like a wave on the beach.

The even whooshing sound when breathing occurs because the glottis narrows. Incidentally, this knowledge is also useful when singing or speaking, because you can influence the volume and tone of your voice.

Bee Breathing / Brahmari

How it works:

The even humming of bee breathing automatically makes you calmer and at the same time strengthens your voice. Anger and fear dissolve, concentration also increases.

That's how it's done:

  • Place your index fingers on the ear cartilage and gently squeeze so that you can't hear anything from the outside. Close your eyes.
  • Pull the corners of your mouth up slightly and breathe in deeply through your nose.
  • As you exhale, make your vocal cords vibrate, making a buzzing sound. With your ears closed, you can clearly hear the buzzing in your head.
  • Take 8 breaths with this technique and then continue to cover your ears for a moment to listen to the reverberations in your head.

Seems weird buzzing like a bee? That's good, because it distracts you from what has been annoying or stressing you so far!

Fire breathing / Kapalabhati

How it works:

Since the abdominal wall is heavily stressed here, this pranayama exercise is almost a small workout. It detoxifies, trains the abdominal muscles and supplies a lot of oxygen. So you can concentrate better again, become more alert and get a clear head.

That's how it's done:

  • Exhale through your nose by snorting lightly. To test, you can hold your hand in front of your nose so that you can feel the puff of air. You're probably automatically breathing in again now.
  • Now you can continue to breathe in and out deeply, slowly building up your sets: first 20 breaths, then 40, and finally 60.

Always pay attention to your abdominal wall: it does all the work here! So sooner rather than later you will feel your gut. This is normal and means you are doing the exercise correctly. But as soon as you get dizzy or start shaking, it's time to stop.

Bellows / Bhastrika

How it works:

Much like fire breathing, this exercise targets abdominal breathing. It makes you feel warm and more energetic.

That's how it's done:

  • Breathe quickly and forcefully through your nose as you would for fire breathing, but block one nostril. Alternately pull in and push out your abdominal wall.
  • After 20 breaths, take a deep breath in and out through both nostrils.
  • Now hold the other nostril closed and repeat the passage.

Caution: You should first get used to the bellows by regularly practicing fire breathing!

This is what pranayama does

Each breathing technique has a variety of effects. If you practice regularly, you can significantly improve your well-being through proper breathing. Of course, this doesn't happen overnight , so you shouldn't expect a single pranayama exercise to change your life - but in the long run , breathing techniques are far more natural and efficient than coffee, sleeping pills, aspirin, etc. Here's just a small selection what you can achieve:

alternate breathing:

  • Calms and helps to fall asleep
  • Promotes concentration
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Works against headaches

Bellows and Fire Breathing

  • warming from within
  • Make you awake and alert
  • Train the abdominal muscles
  • Detoxify

bee breathing

  • Strengthens the voice
  • Prevents cough and hoarseness
  • Calms anger and stress
  • Promotes concentration

Caution is only required in two cases: during pregnancy and in smokers . Because with the latter, it can happen through deep breathing that the tobacco particles from the cigarette are transported even further into the bronchi.

Breathing affects the whole body, one more reason to use it consciously ! So just get involved in the pranayama exercises - you have to breathe in and out anyway...

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