Yoga therapy refers to the treatment of diseases through yogic exercises which may be physical, mental or both. The physical exercises in yoga consist of kriyas (procedures), asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing exercises). In this article, we will talk about pranayamas which are focused on improving respiratory health.
Pranayama is derived from the Sanskrit word Prana which means ‘vital force or energy in the body’ and Ayama which means ‘control’. Breath is the external manifestation of this vital force and so, pranayama means ‘control of breath’. By controlling one’s breathing, one can achieve a healthy body and mind.
There are many types of pranayamas and all are beneﬁcial for respiratory health. In this article, we will focus on one of the more common types — Anuloma-Viloma or Alternate Nostril Breathing. In alternate nostril breathing, one inhales through right and exhales through left then inhales through left and exhales through the right nostril. This puriﬁes both the right (sun principle or body) and left (moon principle or mind) nostrils and brings balance to body and mind.
This completes one round of Anulom-Vilom. Repeat the entire process, initially for 1-3 minutes and slowly build up to 5-10 minutes. In practicing pranayama, try to achieve a ratio of 1:2 for inhaling and exhaling, i.e. exhalation time should ideally be double of inhalation time. Initially, you can start with an equal ratio and slowly and gradually build up to 1:2.
This is the first level of Anulom-Vilom. The next level of Anulom-Vilom Pranayama called Nadi shodhana includes retention of breath as well. Retention of breath is a very important process. The ancient texts on yoga say that retention of air, increases the level of prana (energy) in the body, also it regulates the ﬂow of pranic energy throughout the body.
This completes one round of Nadi shodhana pranayama. Repeat the entire process for about 5 minutes, to begin with, and then slowly increase your duration to up to 15 minutes. Initially, start with an equal duration for inhalation, retention, and exhalation and slowly build up to an ideal ratio of 1:4:2 (1 count inhalation, 4 counts retention and 2 counts exhalation).
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