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Breathing Techniques for Better Health

How do I start my Yoga practice?

The most frequently asked question by the majority of people.

What comes first? Touching toes, balancing on my head, or learning to hold my breath in Pranayama? Well, none of these are the beginning. The starting point of yoga practice is breathing, not with Pranayama but breathing Kriyas which build a strong base for Asana practice.

Kriyas correct wrong breathing, develops breathing awareness, breathing harmony and connect the body and mind. They release muscular fatigue and tension, along with relaxing the body. A relaxed body becomes supple for Asana practice.

3 important Kriya practices:

  1. Mukha Dhouthi
  2. Agni Sara
  3. Kapalabathi

Mukha Dhouthi

‘Dhouthi’ is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘purification’ or ‘forceful exhalation’. There are many Dhouthis explained in Hatha Yoga Texts like Vastra Dhouthi, Vamana Dhouthi, Danda Dhouthi,etc. Mukha Dhouthi is the simplest and is considered as the best practice for beginners.

It is a technique that prepares the practitioner for proper rhythmic breathing; corrects wrong breathing patterns. The kriya involves forcefully expelling the wind from the stomach. It is simple, builds and good coordination for Asana and pranayama practices. Mukha Dhouthi cleanses the stomach, small and large intestine, lungs, and throat. Consequently it connects with the 5 Pranas (Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana, and Vyana). The whole body squeezes during exhalation, and expands while inhaling.

Practice Technique:
  1. Stand with your legs around one to one and a half feet wide.
  2. Bend your knees and slightly lean forward around 30 to 45 degrees. Rest your arms on the thighs keeping the arms straight.
  3. Make sure your feet are firm and your entire body is relaxed.
  4. Inhale deeply through the nose, taking as much air as possible. Pull the entire abdomen inwards and exhale forcefully through the mouth.
  5. Gradually repeat this around 25 to 30 times. Stand in Shitali Tadasana, relax and observe the changes in your body, especially the area around the navel.
Benefits:

This breathing kriya is one of the best practices for-

  1. People working under stress, as it helps slow down the breath and relaxes the mind and body.
  2. Those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, allergy, constipation, migraine, tension headache, menstruation problems, etc.
Important Note:

For people with high blood pressure, heart-related problems, hernia, dry cough, throat infections, vertigo, etc. it is advisable to practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Agni Sara

Agni is ‘fire’ and Sara is ‘fanning’. The physical body is made of Pancha Mahabhuta (5 elements) – Akash (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Jala (Water), and Prithvi (Earth). The Agni represents sun energy in our body. In the Samana prana around the nabi or navel there are three types of fire – Mandagni, Agni and Tivragni. Regular practice of Agnisara brings a balance in the three fires, expels all toxins from the system and builds lightness and freshness in the body.

Practice Technique:

Agni Sara is a slightly more complex breathing kriya in comparison with Mukha Dhouti. There are three techniques that must be followed in this order.

First technique:
  1. Follow the first three positions as mentioned under Mukha Dhouthi.
  2. Inhale push the abdomen outward and as you exhale pull the abdomen inward.
  3. Continue for around 10 to 15 times. Take a break and then repeat 3 to 5 rounds.
  4. Relax in Shitali Tadasana. Observe the changes in the body, especially the area around the navel.
  5. Once comfortable, move to the second technique.
Second technique:
  1. Follow the first three positions as mentioned under Mukha Dhouthi.
  2. Keeping the breath neutral move the abdomen forward and backward slowly. Focus on this movement.
  3. Repeat this around 10 to 15 times, take a break and then repeat 3 to 5 rounds.
  4. Relax in Shitali Tadasana, and observe the changes in the body especially the area around the navel.
  5. Once comfortable, move to the third technique.
Third technique:
  1. Follow the first three positions as mentioned under Mukha Dhouthi.
  2. Exhale completely through the mouth. Hold the exhaled breath. While holding the breath, pull the stomach front and back in rapid succession. In the beginning, do it slowly.
  3. When you need to breathe in, relax the abdomen and slowly breathe in.
  4. Repeat this up to twelve times.
  5. Relax in Shitali Tadasana, and observe the changes in the body especially the area around the navel.
Benefits:

The benefits of this breathing kriya are:

  1. It reduces excess weight around the abdomen and waist.
  2. Helps in reducing constipation, indigestion, obesity, menstruation issues, diabetes, breathing problems, migraines, tension headache, etc.
  3. Keeps the back muscles supple and strong.
Important Note:
  1. There are no limitations to the first and second techniques.
  2. For people with high blood pressure, heart-related problems, back and neck problems, hernia, etc, it is advisable to practice the third technique under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
  3. Avoid practice during menstruation.

Kapalabhati

Kapala is ‘forehead’ and bhati is ‘shining’. This breathing kriya is widely practiced in the yoga world. This technique is explained differently by different schools. The basic practice can be done by anyone as it warms the body and prepares for Asanas. As the breath moves rapidly; the body becomes lighter and creates more space in the lungs. Regular practice detoxifies all the systems in our body and makes the body, breath, and mind well-coordinated.

Practice Technique:
  1. Sit in any meditative Asana with an uplifted spine and relaxed body.
  2. Place your hands on the thighs in any mudra.
  3. Eyes softly closed, face well relaxed.
  4. If you are a beginner start with the first stage. Take a deep breath and as you exhale pull your stomach inward. Exhalation is active, inhalation happens naturally.
  5. Practice this 15 to 20 times. Stop and observe for 30 seconds. Repeat around 3 to 5 rounds. After completing the round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
  6. As you get comfortable and grounded in this practice, move on to the next stage. In this, the speed of exhalation is 60 to 90 per minute. Try to practice it continuously for 90 seconds. Stop the practice, relax with eyes closed and observe the changes – the breath stops for a few seconds everything becomes blank. This is called Kevala Kumbaka.
  7. Bring the breath to normal, andrepeat this practice 3 to 5 times.
Benefits:

This breathing kriya is useful for:

  1. Helpful for people with sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, tension headache, migraine, depression, insomnia, digestion-related problems, etc.
  2. Improves lung capacity, massages the diaphragm, and activates Samana prana.
  3. Improves blood circulation.
  4. The body is active, breath is long and light and the mind becomes quiet and clear.
Important Note:

Avoid practicing this at night.

Pick your practice as per your need and comfort. Join us to learn from our experienced IndeaYoga teachers.

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