Pranayama has been a source to draw in the ‘Prana’ or chi or the universal life force across meditation practitioners for times immemorial. The oft ignored routine of inhaling and exhaling categorized as breathing adds huge benefits with sheer mindfulness of these acts. Pranayama is regulated breathing which involves slow prolonged inhalations, retentions and exhalations with consciousness. A focused effort to observe and practice these breathing techniques offers physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama has been attributed with momentous benefits with deep relaxation and improved wellbeing as the primary benefit. As a result benefits of improved concentration, reduced stress and depression, relieved hyper tension and strengthened nervous and respiratory system are aplenty.
- Specific benefits include smooth flow of oxygen in the body, this helps in weight regulation by melting fat as more oxygen burns more fat
- Pranayama helps in lung expansion thus increasing the efficiency and health of the organ
- Pranayama stimulates Autonomic Nervous System, Sympathetic Nervous System and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems that help alleviate stress, anxiety, ease depression, dullness and lethargy
- It helps digestion freeing from constipation, contends blood pressure and heart diseases
- It removes problems of phlegm, mucus and tonsillitis ensuring teeth and gum health
- It controls ageing too
Types of Pranayama
Pranayama is more commonly attributed to the Hindu yogic traditions. The ancient scriptures describe over 50 different Pranayama breathing exercises with eight being most common and significant ones. These different types of Pranayamas depict varied techniques of regulated breathing with defined controls to gain diverse benefits at stipulated times.
Similarly the Buddhists offer Pranayama with identical practices and enhanced benefits in the realms of spirituality. The Mahayana Buddhism propagates that once your mind is calm and focused, you can fully connect with the enlightened nature and free yourself of all mental and emotional dysfunctions.
The Tibetan Pranayama or the 9 round breathing thus is most effective to use when one feels low on energy or vitality or when one is physically sick and suffering from mental or emotional health. Tibetans believe breath and mind are closely linked and one can self-moderate one’s mental and emotional state by controlled breathing. They have scientifically measured breath in and out in a day and calculated it. They believe that a training in breathing meditation aids in prolonging life itself.
Tibetan Pranayama – The 9 Round Breathing
The Tibetan Pranayama or 9 round breathing technique relies heavily on visualization. While practicing Tibetan Pranayama, one should visualize breath as white light. This is to realize the prana/chi aspect of the practice and not just consider it as air or oxygen. Remember it is the vital life force of self and of all things.
While focusing on your breath, try and imagine your attention or mind as literally riding on top of the breath. Just like you are floating on the breath, staying with it the entire way, so as your breath and your attention become one. However, an easier beginner’s practice is to do just the breathing without visualization.
Tibetan Pranayama Technique
- Adopt a good posture. One that’s straight aligned, comfortable and relaxed. Sit very straight as subtle energy channels running on either side of spine are necessary features of this practice.
- Take few long breaths: straighten up when you breathe in like you are pulled up by the crown and when you breathe out, subtly relax shoulders, face and hands while retaining the alignment.
- Visualize yourself like a hollow balloon. Your skin is glowing and brilliant and on the inside there is only empty space. Take a few moments to strongly establish this visualization.
- Next, visualize a ‘central channel’ about 1cm thick from your perineum at the base to the crown of your head and two ‘side channels’ going in through the nostrils up to eyebrow level and then going down either side of the central channel merging at just below the navel. All the ‘channels’ are hollow like plumbing pipes. Take a moment to establish this visualization. It will get easier and even instantaneous with practice.
- Gently raise your hand and block the left nostril with your fingers. Take long, deep breaths through the right nostril all the while imagining drawing in white healing light through the right channel right down to the belly
- Hold your breath and the white light in the central channel momentarily and then block the right nostril and release the air up and out through the left nostril. All the while imagining black smoke representing all negativity, illness and blockages releasing out through the left nostril.
This completes one round. Repeat 2 more times and do this with reverse sides. Breathe in through the left and breathe out with the right with the same visualizations. Do this 3 times. This makes it 6 times
For the last 3, do not block any nostrils; just take in long slow breathes through both and release through both visualizing white light filling you up and black smoke leaving you.
Practicing Tibetan Pranayama requires some experience with other Pranayama breathing techniques. If you’re a beginner to Pranayama, you can start practicing these simple Pranayama breathing exercises. And then try the Tibetan Pranayama technique.