Learn How to Use Pranayama to Bring Yourself Back to Balance

Updated: Nov 18


When you do pranayama 80 percent of the toxins in our body are released through the outgoing breath.


You've probably noticed that your tastes and diet changes with the seasons, and according to Ayurveda, even the pranayama you use should be tweaked in line with the seasons; but more so in line with any imbalances that arise in your system.


Just as we discovered in our exploration of yoga asana, the type of pranayama you use should have the opposite qualities of the dosha that you wish to balance - this helps to bring the dosha into harmony. Although each pranayama has a specific effect, that effect can be moderated by bringing awareness to how we practice - the intention, intensity and quantity, and this will give us the desired effect.


The rest of this article explores pranayama suitable for specific dosha imbalances and there is a suggested pranayama sequence to help balance the dosha.


Pranayama for Balancing Vata Dosha


Vata comprises both air and ether, or wind and space. Its predominant qualities are cold, dry, light, rough and moving. Pranayama that bring balance to the subtle body will also help bring vata into balance.


Nadi Shodhana

One of the best techniques for balancing excess vata is Nadi Shodhana which is also known as alternate nostril breathing. It is similar to, but not the same as Anulom Vilom. Nadi Shodhana is rhythmic and soothing which helps to release physical tension, clears the mind, and enhances a feeling of peacefulness. It is also beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety.


The gentle nature of Nadi Shodhana means that it can be done anytime.


Anulom Vilom

Similar to Nadi Shodhana, Anulom Vilom is an alternate nostril breathing technique that doesn't involve a hold between the breath.


When the channels are in balance, it stimulates the central channel called the Sushumna Nadi, which in turn helps in the elimination of free radicals and toxins from the Iida and Pingala Nadi, restoring balance to the brain.


When the channels are in balance, it stimulates the central channel called the Sushumna Nadi, which in turn helps in the elimination of free radicals and toxins from the Iida and Pingala Nadi, restoring balance to the brain.


Balanced breathing techniques like Anulom Vilom helps to strengthen the mind and create relaxation. They are also useful in preparing the body to receive more prana from a longer routine. It can be done anytime and anywhere.


Surya Bhedana


Surya Bhedana is the opposite of Chandrandra Bhedana and is a warming pranayama technique. Bhedana means to pierce or pass through and this technique works by stimulating the Pingala Nadi. Breathing in through the right nostril and out through the left stimulates the sun/masculinne energy and is warming. The Pingala is also associated with: solar, heating, logical, aggressive, concentration, focus, and mathematical problem solving. This warming nature makes it very useful for Vata. It is a simple pranayama to practice:

  • Place your Left palm face down on your Left knee.

  • Take your Right palm and then bend your first and second fingers down.

  • You then use your ring finger to close your Left nostril and your thumb will close your Right nostril.

  • Place your thumb on your Left nostril and exhale everything out of your Right nostril to begin.

  • Then inhale through your Right nostril with a smooth and steady breath.

  • At the top of your inhalation, close both nostrils, then exhale through the Left nostril and elongate your exhalation.


Bhramari Pranayama

Also known as Humming Bee Breath, Bhramari is a calming breathing practice that soothes the nervous system and helps to connect us with our truest inner nature. By closing our sense of sight and other external sounds, it helps us to connect with our truest inner nature. Bhramari is the Sanskrit word for "bee," and we make a humming sound at the back of the throat which sounds like the gentle humming of a bee.


Bhramari can be used to pacify Vata, but it's cooling nature means it can aggravate Vata if it is done too much.


Contraindications:

Bhramari should not be practiced by pregnant or menstruating women.

It is also contraindicated for individuals with:

  • extremely high blood pressure,

  • epilepsy,

  • chest pain, or

  • an active ear infection.

Bhramari should not be practiced in a supine position (lying down).


Pranayama Sequence for Balancing Vata


To balance vata, perform this simple pranayama sequence as soon as you wake up:

  1. Nadi Shodhana - 5 minutes

  2. Bhramari Pranayama - 5 minutes

  3. Surya Bhedana - 5 minutes


Pranayama for Balancing Pitta Dosha


Pitta is comprised of fire and water. Its main qualities are hot, oily, light, and sharp. Pitta benefits from pranayama that cools the body and calms the fire in the mind.


Sitali Pranayama


This cooling breath has the opposite qualities to Pitta, so it cools and calms excess Pitta in the body. Sitali breath is best for the summer season or whenever you are feeling angry, irritated, frustrated, or if you notice acidic indigestion.

Chandra Bhedana


Chandra Bhedana is a cooling and calming pranayama technique and it can be useful for times when you are stressed, overwhelmed or distracted. Breathing in through the left nostril and out through the right stimulates the Ida Nadi, or the moon/feminine energy and is cooling. The left nostril or Ida Nadi is associated with: lunar, cooling, calming, and creative. This cooling nature makes it very useful for Pitta types. It is a simple pranayama to practice:

  • Place your Left palm face down on your Left knee.

  • Take your Right palm and then bend your first and second fingers down.

  • You then use your ring finger to close your Left nostril and your thumb will close your Right nostril.

  • Place your thumb on your Right nostril and exhale everything out of your Left nostril to begin.

  • Then inhale through your Left nostril with a smooth and steady breath.

  • At the top of your inhalation, close both nostrils, then exhale through the Right nostril and elongate your exhalation.


Pranayama Sequence for Balancing Pitta Dosha


To balance Pitta, perform this simple pranayama sequence as soon as you wake up:

  1. Anulom Vilom in Left, out Right - 5 minutes

  2. Sitali Pranayama - 5 minutes

  3. Chandra Bhedana - 5 minutes

Pranayama for Balancing Kapha Dosha


Kapha is made of water and earth. Its main qualities are heavy, sticky, cool, and oily. Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) has the opposite qualities, to stimulate, warm, and lift the excess Kapha. Bhastrika helps increase the graceful flow of prana through the body's energy channels (nadis). It also helps to remove excess congestion in the lungs and brighten the mind. Bhastrika is best during springtime, or anytime you feel sluggish, lethargic, mildly congested, or unmotivated.


To balance the cool and heavy qualities of Kapha Dosha, practice warming, energizing breaths such as, Ujjayi breath. Bhastrika, kapalabhati or any heating and active breath.



Ujjayi Pranayama


Ujjayi Pranayama is also known as the Breath of Victory, and it is a widely used pranayama in the yoga asana. Ujjayi, when broken into it's Sanskrit parts comes from the prefix ud, which means “bondage” as well as “upward” and “expanding.” Ud is combined with the root ji, meaning “to conquer” or “acquire by conquest.” So, Ujjayi Pranayama is means obtaining freedom from bondage.


Ujjayi is performed with a slight constriction at the back of the throat, which speaks to both the physical and spiritual aspects of the ujjayi practice. This pranayama is tranquilising, mildly heating, and balancing for all three doshas. Because of it's warming and expanding effect, Ujjayi can be used during asana practice to help balance the Kapha dosha.



Bhastrika Pranayama - Bellows Breath


Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) is so named because of the bellows effect it has on the body. It stimulates, warms, and lifts the excess Kapha in the body. Bhastrika helps to increase the smooth flow of prana through the body's energy channels (Nadis). It is also known to help remove excess congestion in the lungs and brighten the mind. It is best used during spring, or whenever you feel sluggish, lethargic, mildly congested, or unmotivated.


Avoid Bhastrika during pregnancy, or if you have heart or respiratory conditions.


Kapalbhati Pranayama - Breath of Fire


Kapalbhati is widely known as the breath of fire, and it consists of a rhythmic breath focused on sharply exhaling by contracting the adominals followed by a passive inhalation. The main purpose of this type of breath is to boost blood circulation and to cleanse the digestive system, and practicing Kapalbhati pranayama regularly detoxifies all the systems in our body. An obvious sign of a healthy body is a shining forehead. Kapalbhati literally translates to ‘the shining forehead’ and this is what happens with the regular practice of this pranayama.


There is some confusion about the difference what kapalbhati and bhastrika pranayama as they are very similar practices. The key difference is that the emphasis in kapalbhati breath is on the forceful exhale, and in bhastrika the emphasis is on both the inhale and exhale.


Avoid Kapalbhati:

  • if you have an artificial pacemaker or stents, backache due to slip disc, recent abdominal surgery, or are suffering from epilepsy or a hernia.

  • during and shortly after pregnancy, as well as during menstruation.

  • if you have hypertension and heart problems.



Pranayama Sequence for Balancing Kapha Dosha


To balance Kapha, perform this simple pranayama sequence as soon as you wake up:

  1. Anulom Vilom in Left, out Right - 5 minutes

  2. Ujjayi Breath - 5 minutes

  3. Kapalbhati or Bastrika Breath - 5 minutes

  4. Surya Bhedana - 5 minutes


Balancing Tridosha


This unique Ayurveda constitution can manifest imbalance in all three doshas at a particular time, or any one or two of the three doshas at a particular time, which makes it a little trickier to manage. The following prnayama sequence can help to balance tridosha:

  • Brahmari pranayama - 5 minutes

  • Nodi Sodhana – Anuloma Viloma - 5 minutes

  • Ujjayi pranayama - 5 minutes



Tim is a certified RYS200 hours Yoga Teacher. He certified as an Advanced Breathwork Instructor and currently studies Ayurveda with Yoga Veda Institute.


When combined with his experience as a life and leadership coach, Tim can help people make dramatic changes in their overall wellbeing. He takes a breathful, mindful, soulful approach to support his clients.


To learn more, book a call with Tim at http://book.timsnell.co


#Pranayama #Breathwork #Ayurveda #AyurvedaYogaTherapy #Dosha #Balance #Wellness

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