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
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