In general the yoga breathing consists of 4 main parts:
1. Puraka or inhalation
2. Rechaka or exhalation
3. Antar kumbhaka or the internal retention of breath
4. Bahir kumbhaka or the external retention of breath.
The last two are usually included in the advanced breathing practices and novice students do them rarely. There is also the 5th part, but we are not going to touch it right now as it is an advanced practice.
The breath retention or kumbhaka is considered to be the most important part of the whole Pranayama process as it is able to let the sadhaka or yoga student to discipline their mind to advance in meditation. But one cannot master it just right from the start; you need to go through the general respiration control, learning how to properly inhale and exhale.
Pranayama is deeply connected to the subtle bodily energy and the functioning of the mind but this is a subject of another post. Now let’s see the practical part of yoga breathing exercises.
How to Do Yoga Breathing Exercises: Before you begin
Find a quiet room with fresh air; you can also do it outside if the weather allows, but make sure nobody will disturb you otherwise you will not be able to concentrate on Pranayama.
Early morning is the best, especially before the sunrise. If it is not possible for you, then you can do yoga breathing exercises just after the sunset.
Take any comfortable pose: it can be padmasana or lotus pose if you can take it; otherwise just sit with straight back and try to relax. The relaxation of the spine and other parts of the body is very important, because otherwise it will be difficult for you to perform Pranayama successfully and unnecessary muscle tension will block the energy flow.
Loose and comfortable clothes, made of natural materials such as cotton are great.
Pranayama should be done on empty stomach (after 3 hours you completed your main meals, and after two hours since light meals). You can also take bath or shower before it if you practice yoga breathing separately from yoga asanas, or you can simply do the bathing between your yoga routine.
Concentrate on the air flow through your nostrils; do not force the breathing, just make a little effort to deepen it; if you start feeling some discomfort discard the practice and lie on your back to relax.
When not to do Pranayama
If you are sick, or angered, have a full stomach, lack of sleep, or have some other serious health disorder. If you have smoked recently, don’t do Pranayama. In general, smoking is bad for yoga breathing, so try to give it up. Even if you cannot give up smoking right now, don’t despair and simply continue your yoga practice – the bad habit will go away gradually.
Possible side effects of Pranayama
Pranayama is very beneficial to our health but there may be some side effects due to the following reasons:
– You force the yoga breathing exercises too much
– Your body starts detoxification process since Pranayama increases the metabolism
The side effects may include:
– Itching sensation
– Heat or cold sensation
– The feeling of lightness of heaviness of the body
– Pimples may occur due to the intense cleaning
– Uncommon digestion behavior (usually it gets much better)
– Upper back pain (rarely)
Theses side effects are not always bad and usually temporary; if something unpleasant persists, then approach an experienced yoga teacher for consultation.