Pranayama

Bhastrika Pranayama

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Bhastrika means bellows breath or the breath of fire. For this changing season, practice Bhastrika every day to help minimize spring’s kapha-aggravating potential while supporting the elimination of any accumulated excess during the winter. It is a great pranayama practice for kapha and vata; but in excess, it can aggravate pitta, so it should only be done in moderation for pitta conditions.

Practicing bhastrika cleanses mucus from the chest and sinuses, kindles gastric fire, improves circulation, brings vigor, vitality, and proper elimination. It improves the tone of the bronchial and heart muscles as well as the diaphragm, and helps to prevent heart and lung diseases. Its a very easy practice and can be incorperated in to your daily life no matter where you are. To practice bhastrika follow the below instructions:

  • Sit cross-legged, keeping the right hand on the right knee, the left hand on the left knee and the spine straight.

  • Do a slight chin lock, contact the anus, and begin to do bellows breathing, which means inhaling and exhaling forcibly. This involves a rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation powered by the movement of the diaphragm. The movement of air is accompanied by an audible sound.

  • You can do 30 constant, forceful bellows breaths and then rest.

  • When the required number of expulsions, say 30 for a round is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it feels comfortable; then, a deep exhalation is done very slowly.

  • The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika. You may start with one or two rounds (30 each) and work yourself up to do more breathings each round.

Contraindications include pregnancy, high blood pressure, glaucoma, hydrocele, hernia, ascites and recent history of heart attack.

 

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease.

Connecting Yoga through Breath

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A proper understanding of the connections between yoga and Ayurveda are essential for the effective treatment of illness. Classical texts on yoga such as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika describes several asanas and enumerates their benefits on the basis of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic practitioners developed yoga as a form of physical exercise that would support the diseased internal organs and structural imbalances. Using the concepts of doshas, the same terminology for disease, and the same lists of body qualities and functions, asanas where created.

Most yoga practitioner restrict themselves by stating that an asana can help restore balance among all three doshas or some diseases that are explained in Ayurveda.  Ayurveda mentions that all forms of therapy or treatments can be classified under two broad headings: Those that nourish the body, brmhana, and those that remove from the body, langhana. Most methods of therapy suggested in Ayurveda fall under langhana, including both palliative and eliminative methods, because, in both, we are mostly reducing some body quality that is out of balance. 

One reason for is, most treatments in Ayurveda starts with the reduction or removal of imbalances is that balance in the being is a natural consequence of this process. Another reason is that treatment is basically dependent on the status of agni or digestive fire. The importance of agni is acknowledged in both yoga and Ayureda. The primary purpose of all treatment and important goal of practicing asanas, is to keep the agni functioning well. 

Through both movements are breathing are integral to the practice of asanas, breathing is of greater importance than movement in addressing many disorders of the body function such as hypertension or diabetes, or psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, we need to choose a body position in which the person is able to breathe freely, emphasizing the appropriate component of the breathing cycle.  

Breathing is one of most important aspects in yoga that is directly related to agni rather than specific types of movements. Inhalation helps to increase agni and activates metabolism, similar to that of fanning the flames of a fire. Exhalation, being a natural process of elimination, helps remove toxins and waste that dull the agni, enabling the function of agni to work better. In many functional disorders, it is important to ensure that exhalation is proper, even if inhalation is the component of breathing to be emphasized.

For brahma, the nourishing aspect of Ayurvedic therapy to be effective, the agni has to be functioning properly. Otherwise, even if we consume nourishing foods, herbs etc, they will not be of use to our body, because agni is what allows the food to transform into body tissues. In many disease states, langhana is usually required first to remove the blockages in the functioning agni. Only then will brhama be possible at all. This is why Ayurvedic texs suggest that even in a situation where brmhana is necessary, its may be good to start with mild langhana first. How ever the opposite does not apply: brmhana is not to be done for a person who requires lanaghana.

Classical yoga texts explain the connection between the various types of pranayama (breathing exercises) and the three doshas and various other body qualities and functions. Specific types of pranayama can be used in decreasing the qualities of particular doshas when they are out of balance. Also, these texts related to breathing to the qualities of heat and cold in the body. They classify the types of pranayama as heating and cooling and also suggest that inhalation through the right nostril is heating, while inhalation through the left nostril is cooling. These specific connections between breathing, and the body qualities is one of the most important reason why breath is more important to the management of health, then asanas. 

What ever classification of yoga we adopt, a clear understanding of the relationship between body and mind and their relationship between body and mind and their relationship with breathing and food is essential in order to apply yoga and Ayurveda effectively in the treatment of any illness. 

So Hum Mantra

According to both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the So Ham mantra is considered to be the vibration of the cosmic unheard AUM and produces a union between the individual and universal consciousness. “So Hum” is translated as “I Am That” Pronunciation: So – Hahmmm The two seed syllables inherent four polarities:

  • The polarity of female Yin energy, represented by So, and male Yang energy, represented by Hum;
  • The polarity of inspiration (So – cold air) and expiration (Hum – warm air);
  • The polarity of mental (So) and emotional (Hum) energies;
  • The polarity of spirit (So) and matter (Hum).

How to Meditate
Sit comfortably and quietly with your palms up, open, and placed on your knees and pay attention to your breath. Let your lungs breath with no effort on your part. Simply watch your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Silently pronounce So on inhalation and Hum on exhalation.

Hum means “I“or the individual ego; So means “He, the Divine”. In the natural course of So – Hum meditation, with the So going in, life energy goes in. When Hum goes out, ego, our limited individuality, goes out. Proper practice of So – Hum meditation leads to the union of the individual with the universal Cosmic Consciousness. No effort is required, no concentration, no judgment, just choiceless observation. In that state there is great joy, beauty, and love.

When?
The best time to chant the So – Hum mantra is in the morning before eating breakfast. The chanting will release a finer energy that can be used throughout the day. An early evening meditation before having a meal will relax the body and renew energy depleted during the day.

For how long?
It is important that you sit silent and meditate after silent So – Hum chanting. You can start with 5 minutes silent chanting followed by 10 minutes of silent meditation.

Practice this easy meditation every day for at least ten to fifteen minutes (or longer) and you will discover for yourself the treasure house of meditation. 

Pranayama means control of breath. Vedic science teaches us how to control our mind by breathing practices. We also can use pranayama to activate male (solar) and female (lunar) energy then needed, or harmonize them.

TODAY’S TIP: It is important to meditate in a room that is not used very often and that feels to be your space (such as your bedroom). It shouldn’t be cluttered with too many things and should contain a window.