What are the disadvantages of bhramari pranayama
All about pranayama: breathe happiness
The yogic breathing exercises, also called pranayama, unfortunately lead a shadowy existence. In contrast to yoga postures (asanas), popular relaxation exercises such as shavasana and meditation practices, breathing exercises are usually treated like accessories: quite nice, but not essential for practice.
This is a pity. Because the breath plays a decisive role in the human system as a whole. How we breathe not only has a physical impact, it also has a massive impact on our psyche. On average, humans breathe around 25,920 times a day. We take in oxygen through the breath, but also prana (= life energy) from a yogic point of view. However, many people breathe too shallowly due to stress, tension, poor posture and harmful habits. Your system receives too little oxygen - one of the most obvious consequences is then rapid fatigue and the associated exhaustion.
The effect of pranayama
In short, the yogic breathing exercises help us to find our way back to natural breathing. "Prana" means energy, "Ayama" means "control". With the help of breathing exercises, we learn to consciously perceive and control our breath again - and thus to activate our life energy and make it flow.
That sounds abstract and for some even esoteric, but it works very directly: Anyone who has breathed in and out deeply, relaxed and slowly for a few breaths during a violent argument or in a very tense situation knows how powerful human breathing is - suddenly you think and feel more clearly again, stress and excessive demands are reduced to a tolerable level, the heart beats more calmly. So if deep, calm breathing has such a powerful effect, you can imagine that sophisticated breathing exercises such as those found in yoga can be even more effective.
And that's how it is: The various Pranayama exercises help - everyone can try it out for themselves - to (concentrate) oneself, work effectively against stress and cause energy boosts that neither coffee nor matcha tea can trigger. Pretty much all of them are detoxifying, and there is even a breathing exercise that stimulates your digestion and turns your stomach into a washboard (kapalabhati!). Certain breathing exercises can also be beneficial for specific illnesses such as allergies or asthma. Pranayama can help reduce stress and expand lung capacity here.
Why does pranayama have such a powerful effect on the mind and body?
The effect of pranayama is mainly explained by the effect of the breath on the nervous system, especially the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems:
- Balancing and calming breathing exercises such as Anuloma Viloma and Bhramari focus on a long exhalation. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of our nervous system whose activation lowers blood pressure and heart rate, among other things. If the parasympathetic nervous system is active, we are relaxed and the body can regenerate and heal.
- Activating, stimulating breathing exercises such as Kapalabhati, on the other hand, focus on inhalation and thus activate the sympathetic system, which increases blood pressure and heart rate and makes us alert and efficient.
Breathing is therefore a highly effective means of communication between body and mind - and one that we can control!
But pranayama can do even more:
- Those who practice regularly relax and train the entire respiratory system - and thus also come back to an overall deeper, more relaxed breathing in everyday life. This in turn affects the nervous system and leads to a more relaxed inner attitude.
- In addition, breathing exercises can expand lung capacity when working with techniques such as holding your breath, deep chest inhalation, that widen the chest. Not only top athletes know how crucial a good lung capacity has on performance and fitness.
- Those who exhale deeply also detoxify through breathing.
Be careful with advanced pranayama!
Advanced Pranayama techniques and those that activate strongly (Kapalabhati, Bhastrika) should only be practiced by experienced yogis under the competent instruction of a teacher - otherwise there is a risk of circulatory problems ranging from slight dizziness to nausea and fainting, sweating and tremors can also occur.
Many yoga teachers also advise smokers (especially heavy ones) not to practice pranayama. The reason: the tobacco particles could penetrate deeper into the bronchi if you breathe heavily. When you have stopped smoking, you should therefore wait a while until the coarse dirt has cleared your lungs and only then begin a pranayama practice.
But don't be shy! Gentle, balancing, simple breathing exercises such as bhramari and sitali are suitable for almost everyone.
The following applies to all breathing exercises: The breath should flow freely and be controlled without pressure or ambition. If the muscles of the respiratory system and / or the surrounding areas tense or if you audibly gasp for air after holding your breath, you should either end the exercise mindfully or reduce the intensity. As soon as there is too much pressure on the respiratory system, Pranayama no longer has a positive effect, but only makes breathing even more tense, even more unnatural - and thus has a more negative effect on psyche and body.
The most important pranayama exercises
1. Abdominal breathing
Here's everything you need to know about this most basic and natural way of breathing - that's how babies breathe!
2. Complete yoga breathing
In this video Anna Trökes explains yogic full breathing:
Oceanic breathing is called it because it creates a gentle noise in the throat. It is called warming breathing because it activates Agni, the inner fire. And for many yogis it is the most important instrument for bundling their concentration. Ujjayi is one of the most important and widely used breathing exercises because it is practiced in dynamic yoga styles such as Ashtanga and Power Yoga throughout the entire asana practice.
In this video, Dr. Ronald Steiner, how to do ujjayi breathing:
4. Anuloma Viloma - alternating breathing
Alternating breathing Anuloma Viloma is one of the most frequently practiced breathing techniques in yoga and has a strong harmonizing and balancing effect on the Ida and Pingala energy channels. With alternating breathing, you breathe in through one nostril and exhale through the other nostril - in this way, the left and right sides of the body and the brain are brought back into harmony in terms of energy. You can find more about the energy channels here under the point "Every Asana has an energetic effect". Here Anna Trökes shows you how to practice alternating breathing (also called Nadi Shodana):
The Anusara yoga teacher Vilas Turske has even devoted an entire exercise video to the technique (only fully viewable for YogaEasy members).
5. Bhastrika, the bellows
The so-called bellows breathing has a strong activating effect. In contrast to Kapalabhati (see below), with Bhastrika not only the exhalation is actively controlled by drawing in the abdominal wall, but also the inhalation. And that in a fast, steady rhythm. A very strenuous, advanced exercise that must be learned thoroughly before practicing on its own!
6. Bhramari, the hum of bees
Here you can find everything about the calming hum of bees.
In summer, Sitali breathing is the savior - it has a strong cooling effect. It also calms energies out of control and reduces appetite. To do this, inhale with a rolled tongue (the tongue protrudes slightly out of the mouth like a pipe) with a sibilant sound and exhale through the nose. Warning: not everyone can roll their tongue!
8. Kapalabhati (also known as skull lighting or fire breathing)
Kapalabhati is a strongly activating and detoxifying breathing exercise that is said to also melt belly fat. Breathing in rapid bursts causes a lot of oxygen to get into the blood. The vigorous exhalation with the support of the abdominal muscles empties the lungs completely and helps the body to detoxify through the breath - and at the same time trains the active abdominal muscles! Therefore, pregnant women should not practice kapalabahti.
9. Pranayama Kumbhaka
In Kumbhaka breathing, breathing in is felt as receiving energy and breathing out as letting go. This creates very natural breathing pauses, which have a very balancing effect on you and your state of mind. Here is a guide to Pranayama Kumbhaka:
10. Pratiloma Ujjayi
The most effective breathing for stress relief is a combination of ujjayi and alternating breathing. With Pratiloma Ujjayi you can breathe down and switch off after a very stressful day or you can prepare for the day during a strenuous phase in the morning and try to start it relaxed:
+++ Here you can find all pranayama videos at YogaEasy. +++
Special terms and techniques in pranayama
If you are practicing pranayama in an advanced yoga class, the following Sanskrit terms may fly around your ears. So that you can then stay completely relaxed, we explain them briefly in German.
- Puraka - the inhalation
- Rechaka - the exhalation
- Kumbhaka - hold breath (Antar Kumbhaka means after inhaling, Bahir Kumbhaka means after exhaling
Also the Bandhas are often activated as part of yogic breathing exercises. Bandhas also regulate the flow of energy (prana) in the body and thus support asanas in their effectiveness. Everything about the execution and the exact effect of Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandara Bandha can be found here.
Plus there is still Mudrasthat are relevant in the context of yogic breathing exercises:
- Nabho Mudra (Heavenly Mudra) - the tip of the tongue is brought up to the roof of the mouth or folded back to the soft part of the palate (rear Nabho Mudra)
- Khechari Mudra (the Seal Mudra) - the tongue is bent back and pressed against the roof of the mouth
History and tradition of pranayama
The Yoga Sutra
Pranayama is part of the eightfold path according to Patanjali. This eightfold path has enlightenment as its goal - however one defines it. You can also say "absolute happiness and absolute health" or "freedom" instead. In any case, the result of the eightfold path is something that is really, really good for all of us, that much is certain.
Patanjali mentions pranayama for the first time in the second chapter (Sadhana Pada) of his Yoga Sutra - it is named as the fourth link of the path after the Yamas, the Niyamas and the asana practice:
Chapter 2, verse 29
यम नियमासन प्राणायाम प्रत्याहार धारणा ध्यान समाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि ॥२ ९॥
yama niyama-āsana prāṇāyāma pratyāhāra dhāraṇā dhyāna samādhayo-'ṣṭāvaṅgāni || 29 ||
Respect for your fellow human beings (Yama) and for yourself, (Niyama), harmony with your body (Asana), your energy (Pranayama), your emotions (Pratyahara) and your thoughts (Dharana), finally immersion (Dhyana) and ecstasy ( Samadhi), are the links of the eightfold path. || 29 ||
The next time Patanjali mentions in verse 47, where he postulates that a soft breath and "the snake-like hiss" of the breath are indispensable for the practice of asana:
prayatna-śaithilya-ananta-samāpatti-bhyām || 47 ||
Essential in this practice is both an even, soft (Shaitilya) breath (Prayatna), as well as (Abhyam) the concentration (Samapatti) on the snake-like hissing of the breath (Ananta). || 47 ||
In verses 48 to 52 he explains in relation to the asana practice that Pranayama can overcome the duality of the physical world (specifically: can connect body and mind), since it brings the physical movement into harmony with the inhalation and exhalation - at least if exhalation, inhalation, stopping (the first three techniques of pranayama) as well as technique, time, number are precisely regulated over a very long period of time.
He also mentions a fourth technique of pranayama that goes beyond holding one's breath.
ततो द्वङ्द्वानभिघातः ॥४८॥
tato dvaṅdva-an-abhighātaḥ || 48 ||
From this arises victory over the duality of the physical world. || 48 ||
तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वास्योर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः ॥४ ९॥
tasmin sati śvāsa-praśvāsyor-gati-vicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ || 49 ||
After this has been achieved, there is a transcendence of the physical movement (Gati) associated with inhalation (Shvasa) and exhalation (Prashvasa). This is energy work (pranayama). || 49 ||
बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्थम्भ वृत्तिः देशकालसन्ख्याभिः परिदृष्टो दीर्घसूक्ष्मः ॥५०॥
bāhya-ābhyantara-sthambha vṛttiḥ deśa-kāla-sankhyābhiḥ paridṛṣṭo dīrgha-sūkṣmaḥ || 50 ||
Exhalation, inhalation, stopping, technique, time, number have to be regulated very precisely over a long period of time. || 50 ||
बाह्याभ्यन्तर विषयाक्षेपी चतुर्थः ॥५१॥
bāhya-ābhyantara viṣaya-akṣepī caturthaḥ || 51 ||
Finally, the fourth technique of pranayama transcends holding the breath after exhaling or inhaling. || 51 ||
Source of the Yoga Sutra translation: en.ashtangayoga.info
Patanjali goes on to explain that with the help of Pranayama the two other links of the eightfold path can be reached, namely Dharana (absolute concentration) and Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) - whereby the last steps on the eightfold path can be taken: Dhyana (absolute Immersion) and finally samadhi (knowledge / enlightenment).
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Only the Hatha yogis then developed various pranayama techniques. In the basic text of Hatha Yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, there is much more detailed reference to Pranyama than in Patanjali: For example, that Pranayama, when performed with pure thoughts, cleanses the Sushumna, the main energy channel, and thus makes the energy flow . In addition, Anuloma Viloma (see above) is described and warned that pranayama can be dangerous if it is practiced by inexperienced yogis or too intensely. And then the Pradipika promises that Pranayama makes you beautiful and slim and gives the practitioner supernatural abilities. In addition, the theory is expressed here that a person's lifetime is calculated according to breaths - i.e. the slower and deeper you breathe, the longer you will live.
That sounds very promising! So: have fun practicing pranayama!
Katharina is a mother, yoga teacher and psychologist. At YogaEasy she is the heart of the editorial team and writes about yoga, true happiness and sustainability. Her articles are published in the Yoga Journal, Happy Way and GingerMag.
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