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6 Tips to Enhance Your Practice of Pranayama

Pranayama is an important practice of Hatha Yoga. One peculiar feature of Hatha Yoga is the emphasis on Pranayama with Kumbhaka  and Mudras for the purpose of awakening the sleeping Kundalini. Those of you who are using Pranayama in this manner should be careful to know your breath retention capacity. The practice of Pranayama, if coupled with the tips mentioned below, can be much more enjoyable and comfortable than otherwise. So, here are some tips for you...

1. Maintain smooth inhalation and exhalation

While performing any pranayama beginners commonly focus only on the act of inhalation and exhalation, not on the quality of the two. To get the maximum benefits inhalation as well as exhalation must be performed in smooth and steady manner. Most of the people can perform smooth inhalation but their exhalation is irregular and unsteady. This usually happens because they fill in the lungs to the fullest and retain the breath to their fullest capacity. This causes rush while exhalation and exhalation is forceful and hasty. Especially, for Nadishodhana and Anuloma Viloma pranayama care must be taken that exhalation is slow and extended beyond the inhalation time. Ideal ratio of inhalation, retention and exhalation as per classic texts is 1:4:2. So, for beginners the exhalation should be at least equal to or longer than inhalation. 

2. Don't do excessive Kumbhaka

Although classic yoga texts recommend the ration of puraka, kumbhaka and rechaka in the ratio of 1:4:2, this is the final (and ideal) ratio. Never attempt to reach this goal in a hurry. Many examples and experiments show that even alternate nostril breathing done without any kumbhaka gives many benefits. Even if you are attempting kumbhaka be gentle and slow. First try to figure out your maximum capacity of inhalation and then inhale a little less during puraka. This way pressure build-up during kumbhaka will be manageable. Kumbhaka done in wrong manner can cause undue pressure on delicate organs such as eyes and ears. So, be careful to listen to your body at every stage. 

3. Learn and apply Bandhas while doing prolonged Kumbhaka

If you are really keen to incorporate Kumbhaka in your practice of pranayama, it is recommended that you learn Bandhas. Especially, Jalandharabandha helps you to "lock" the chin against the base of the nexk helping you to retain the breath easily. Moolabandha and Uddiyanabandha also have their own advantages in a Kumbhaka Sahita pranayam.

4. Drink plenty of water

Pranayama, especially Nadishodhana, Anuloma-Viloma and Surya Bhedana, cause dryness in the body. So, drink plenty of water, fruits and fresh fruit juices. You can also include home made Ghee in your diet (not the one that is sold as Vanaspati). Ghee produced from Cow's milk is very useful for this purpose. You can put it in warm milk and then consume the milk or mix it with other food items. 

5. Consume moderate and right kind of diet

A practitioner of pranayam should tak care of his diet. The diet must be satvik and moderate. Avoid items such as onion, garlic and too much spices. The food should be such that your body can digest it without producing much ama or toxins. Vegetables, fruits, curd, butter-milk, milk, rice, wheat, grains are good. Pickles, oily food, spices, stale food items should be avoided. Pranayama cleanses the pranic channels and wrong diet can put obstacles in this cleansing process.

6. Sleep well

You may wonder why quality sleep is important for the practice of pranayama. Although sleep has no direct connection with the practice of pranayama, the cleansing and benefits of your practice come during the period of rest. If you take appropriate rest, cleansing and removal of toxins will be better. The Pranamaya Kosha will get chance to strengthen itself. Moreover, good amount of sleep ensures that you don't feel sleepy during calming pranayamas such as Ujjayi.


Bipin Joshi is a software consultant, an author and a yoga mentor with more than 22 years of experience in classical yoga system of India. He is an internationally published author and has authored or co-authored more than ten technology books for Apress and WROX press. He has been awarded as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He has also written a few Marathi books including Devachya Davya Hati and Natha Sankentincha Danshu. Having embraced yoga way of life he also teaches Kriya and Meditation to selected individuals.

बिपीन जोशी लिखित देवाच्या डाव्या हाती आणि नाथ संकेतींचा दंशु या पुस्तकांची आपली प्रत आजच विकत घ्या. त्यांच्या अजपा योग मार्गदर्शनाविषयी अधिक माहिती येथे उपलब्ध आहे.

Posted On : 29 May 2014

Tags : Hatha Yoga Chakras Pranayama Sadhana