How to do Pranayama – Yoga Breathing Exercises

Pranayama refers to the breathing exercises in yoga. The word “Prana” stands for the vital force called life force. Ayama means regulating. So pranayama is a set of exercises to regulate the life force. These breathing exercises help in steadying the mind and cleansing it along with the whole body. So it is not just an exercise, it helps you control your life force and use your energy for the benefit of your body.


Breathing is an involuntary activity and we do it all our lives without being aware of our breath. Pranayama makes you focus on your breath and also control the duration of inhalation and exhalation. Hence, pranayama is also known as deerghashwasana or extended breathing.

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  • To do pranayama, you would need the following
  • A calm and quiet spot, away from any disturbance
  • Empty stomach
  • Early morning is the preferable time for pranayama
  • If you practice other yogasanas, pranayama must be done after them

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Types of exercises

There are in all six different kinds of pranayamas. They are:

Bhastrika Pranayama – it involves holding the breath in the course of the breathing.

Anuloma Viloma Pranayama – this pranayama involves using alternate nostrils for breathing in and out.

Kapalabhati Pranayama – this pranayama involves continuous forceful and rapid exhalations that follow normal inhalations.

Bhramari Pranayama – this pranayama needs you to make the sound of humming bees while exhaling through the nose.

Udgeet Pranayama – in this pranayama you chant om during every exhalation.

Let us now see how to do the basic Pranayama which is the Bhastrika Pranayama

  • Make sure that you are wearing comfortable loose clothing. Sit in a position that is comfortable to you- if padmasana and vajrasana are uncomfortable, you can simply cross your legs and sit in sukhasana. Your hands rest on your knees, with the tips of your thumb and forefinger joined together.
  • Breathe in through your nostrils, inhaling deeply. Push yourself to extend the inhalation time for as long as possible. While doing so, make sure that it is your chest and not your abdomen that swells up. Count the number of seconds for which you breathed in.
  • Now hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • Breathe out slowly, trying to match the number of seconds that your inhalation lasted. When you do this, your nose produces a slight hissing sound.
  • After exhalation, hold your breath for a few seconds before inhaling again.
  • Repeat this at least ten times every day.

Advantages of pranayama:

  • Deep breathing such as this helps you gain maximum oxygen for the body. This in turn helps in purifying the blood better.
  • It helps flush out toxins along with the breath that is expelled from the nostrils.
  • It calms and soothes your mind. When you focus on your breath, you tend to push all negative thoughts away.
  • It helps prevent common cold since it keeps your body warm.

Doing pranayama should not be a one or two day thing. Do it with discipline every single day to gain maximum benefit from it. You will be able to channelize your energy better and remain upbeat throughout the day.

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Aparna Anand

After a stint in an MNC in Bangalore, Aparna has now started doing what she loves the most- writing. Travelling and cooking come a close second and third. She lives in Mumbai with her husband.

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