Essential Guidelines For Pranayama

Here are some essential guidelines for pranayama to start your practice of pranayama at home.  These are guidelines are for reference only and people can modify these as per any specific condition in consultation with their yoga teacher.

It is recommended to do pranayama early in the morning, one to two hours before sunrise when oxygen content is maximum in the air. Also, early morning body is fresh and mind is clear from any thought processes.

An empty stomach is ideal for pranayama. Early morning, food consumed during previous day is digested. It is recommended that you should clear your bowels before starting asanas or pranayama.

If you cannot do pranayama in the morning, try to do it in the evening around sunset time.

Where to Practice Pranayama?

 You can practice pranayama in a well ventilated, clean and uncluttered room with plenty of free space for yoga mat and free movement. There should not be any noises which may distract your mind.

Alternatively, you can practice pranayama outdoors in a garden or a lawn provided weather is neither too cold nor too hot. Do not practice outdoors when strong wind is blowing. Avoid practicing yoga under a fan or an air conditioner as it may disturb the body temperature and cause chills.

Eating Before Pranayama

Do not eat anything for 3 to 4 hours before doing pranayama.

Diet For Pranayama

Follow the principles of yoga diet. Eat balanced vegetarian diet as far as possible which will be easy to digest and keep your abdomen clear.

Drinking Water Before Pranayama

If you feel thirsty, you can drink water or lime juice at least 30 minutes before starting yoga breathing.

Clothes For Pranayama

It is necessary for you to feel comfortable and relaxed when you start. Wear loose fitting cotton clothes.

Regular Practice

 Try to do pranayama at the same time, same place and same pose everyday as regularity increases will power. Even if you practice pranayama for 15 minutes but you must establish a daily routine and follow it strictly. I assure you that after one week of practice you will love to do more pranayama.

Posture For Pranayama

For doing pranayama you can sit in padamasana, sidhasana, vajrasana or sukhasana. If you cannot sit comfortably in any of these poses, sit on a chair. While in sitting pose, keep your backbone straight and head in line with it.

You should not be too tired before doing pranayama. Ensure that you get good sleep in the night. In case, you want to do pranayama in the evening after working whole day in office, take rest in shavasana before doing pranayama.

Cautions For Pranayama

  • Patients of asthama or hypertension should not hold breath.
  • Avoid Bhastrika and Surya-bhedi Pranayama in summers and Shitkari, Shitali and Chandra-bhedi in winters.
  • Avoid Kapalabhati pranayama during pregnancy.
  • If you are having any breathing problem, first consult your doctor before doing pranayama. Also, it is advisable to learn from an experienced yoga teacher who can explain in detail the guidelines for pranayama and subtle differences in posture and technique.
  • Strictly avoid smoking as it will nullify the effect of doing pranayama.

Proper Breathing Guidelines For Pranayama

  • Your breathing should not be jerky or hasty, it should be patient and rhythmic enjoying each breath. Draw in breath at a continuous flow rate. The process of breathing in and out should be smooth so as not to make a noise during the process.
  • Always breathe through nose unless required for particular pranayama.
  • Never trying to do pranayama as if you are in a hurry, follow all the basic guidelines for pranayama.
  • Your breathing must be full yogic breathing, a smooth blend of abdominal, chest and clavicular breathing in a simple rhythm. Do not restrict yourself to chest breathing only.
  • Pranayama should be a refreshing experience. While doing Pranayama, forget about your worries and stress in life and try to concentrate on your breath. Do not strain yourself while doing pranayama. Strain destroys the benefits of the exercise.
  • A long inhalation, a short pause while holding the breath, then a long exhalation is the basic pattern to follow. Ideally the proportion of inhaling, holding breath and exhaling is in the ration 1:4:2. So you have to exhale more slowly than inhaling.
  • For a beginner, holding of breath is not recommended. Once you become comfortable with asanas and pranayama practice, start practice of holding breath. Gradually increase holding of breath.
  • The correct way to breathe is to expand the muscles of the diaphragm down and out, then push in and up during inhalation and exhalation respectively. In this way the lungs expand to full capacity, air rushes into them, and then it is vigorously expelled. But very few of us breathe this way naturally. Do not worry, it can be easily learned by practice.

Any time you feel uncomfortable during pranayama practice, stop the exercises. Breathe normally, relax and take rest in shavasana.

A beginner can start practice of Pranayama keeping in mind these guidelines for pranayama. For beginners, rhythmic deep breathing and alom vilom (alternate nostril breathing) are the easiest pranayama for beginners.

As per eight fold path of yoga, you must first practice asanas for few days to condition your body and thereafter start pranayama. During your daily yoga practice, start your yoga sequence with asanas followed by pranayama.

Some people do not practice asanas and just do pranayama only. Pranayama practice alone can improve your concentration, and revitalise your body and mind. These guidelines for pranayama are by no means exhaustive, you can add more based on your experience.

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