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What are the Different Types of Pranayama & Their Benefits?

Updated: Jun 17


different types of pranayama

Pranayama comes from 2 Sanskrit words - prana and ayama. Prana means life force, and ayama means expansion. Pranayama simply means expansion of life forces and energies. There are six simple and six complex pranayamas.


The simple pranayamas are recommended for all age groups and hence everyone can easily learn and must attempt to practice on a daily basis .


6 Different Types of Simple Pranayamas for All Age Groups


1. Anulom vilom (Alternate nostril) or Nadi shodhana pranayama

It balances ida and pingala, which represent the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. It normalizes heart rate, BP, and other parameters that rise during stress.


Indications for anulom vilom

  1. Excellent beginner-level pranayama and sets the stage for more complex pranayama like thirumoolar pranayama.

  2. It takes the stress away from your mind as it allows your focus to be completely on your breath work for a few minutes.

  3. It allows free flow of prana or breath energy into all the parts of the body, including the parts that are blocked.

 

2. Sheetali / Sheetkari (Cooling Breath Pranayama)


For cooling the body, particularly practiced in summer or in stressful situations. It immediately cools the inner system and helps maintain the inner balance.


  1. Cools the body down in humid climates

  2. When stuck in an elevator or the AC not working or stuck in a crowded environment where you feel suffocated and trying to get a breath of fresh air, try this.

  3. Brings down the BP in stressful situations like anger or frustration

  4. The only pranayama where you inhale via the mouth and exhale via the nose.


Contraindications

Avoid if you have low BP or asthma, particularly triggered by cold air, because this pranayama can make such conditions worse.


3. Brahmari (Humming Breath Pranayama)


Indications

  1. If angry or frustrated with something, this helps to calm down.

  2. If you’re not able to sleep well due to anxiety or nervousness, or due to thyroid problems then this can reduce those symptoms.

  3. In the case of sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome also, they can help induce and maintain sleep.

  4. Finally for people who sing, or practice flute or other wind instruments it helps deepen the practice and eliminates distractions.


Contraindications

Advance pregnancy, ear infections or ear pain, advanced heart problems or chest pain, epilepsy or seizures, or migraine headache pls avoid this.


4. Bhastrika (Bellow breath) or forced inhalation and forced exhalation.

  1. Helps balance the three doshas: vata (wind or air), pitta (fire or transformation), and kapha (phlegm or mucous).

  2. Helps remove toxins by purifying the air & causing rapid removal of CO2, and increasing oxygen levels


Contraindicated in:

  • Stroke, vertigo, pregnancy, and serious lung infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia.


5. Surya Bhedana Pranayama (simplest of all)


Advantages of Surya Bhedana

  1. Foundation for other complex pranayamas like ujjayi breaths

  2. Activates the brain and is hence useful in case you’re feeling lazy, not focused, or sleepy. E.g. prior to taking an exam, prior to an interview, etc.


6. Chandra bhedana pranayama


Advantages of chandra bedhana pranayama

  • Activates the left brain or slows down the hyperactive part of the brain and hence indicated in situations where you want to calm down ex-anxiety, mania, hyperactivity, insomnia, ADHD, and learning disorders.


Only after practicing these simple pranayamas one must venture into learning complex and other special types of pranayamas. To learn more enroll here.


pranayama program

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