Prāṇāyāma is the Yogic science of using the breath for health of body and mind.

Benefits of Pranayama

Most people have forgotten how to breathe properly. It is astonishing how little attention we pay in normal life to the importance of breathing correctly. The breath is the most powerful manifestation of life. In fact, life is breath. When the breath ceases, life ceases. The most important point to understand is the relationship between breath and prana.

A student practices pranayama outside in the grass.

What is prana?

Prana is the essential vital energy present everywhere in the universe . Breath is gross, prana is subtle . Moreover, prana is directly related to the mind. As a matter of fact, the waves of thoughts in the mind are the waves the prana. For this reason, by controlling the breath, we control the mind.

This science of using the breath to control the prana (or vital energy) is called pranayama. Sivananda Yoga class teaches different breathing exercises, each one has different effect on the vital energy flow. In fact, by the inhalation, we are bringing more oxygen to our cells and in particular to the brain. Also, by the exhalation, we release carbon dioxide and toxins out of our system.

Prāṇāyāma is integrally part of a Sivananda Yoga class.These breathing exercises are powerful in restoring health and increase vitality to body and mind. Pranayama is best learnt under guidance of a teacher in a pure environment of an ashram.

You will learn 4 Types of Pranayama

Full Yogic Breath:

This breath combines three main types of breathing: abdominal (deep), chest (middle), and clavicular (shallow) breathing. A full Yogic breath begins with a deep breath and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal and clavicular areas. Deep abdominal breathing is essential for ventilating the major part of the lungs.

Deep abdominal breathing

This type of breathing is also called diaphragmatic breath, as the diaphragm is used to bring air to the lowest and largest part of the lungs. Furthermore, the conscious inhalation and exhalation are slow and deep. In fact, it is the best type of breathing, recommended by the yogis, for maximum intake of air and maximum release of tension and fatigue.

 Group of students practice pranayama together on the yoga deck.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Anuloma Viloma means Alternate Nostril Breathing. It is one of the main forms of Prāṇāyāma, which itself means “prana control” . This practice comes from the science of Hatha Yoga. Specifically, Prāṇāyāma consists of specific breathing techniques that facilitate the absorption of prāṇa into the body’s subtle energy channels (nāḍīs).

This increased energy enhances overall vitality and well being. Moreover, this increase in prana has a beneficial effect on our spirit and consciousness. Not only it gives abundant prana leading to physical health, anuloma viloma also balances our energies. In particular, it balances the functioning of the two sides of the brain: the logical left brain and the more creative right brain.

The reason for doing alternate breathing is that the breath alternates between two nostrils. Technically, when the right nostril is more open, the left brain hemisphere is more active, and vice versa.

Uniquely, this conscious and rhythmical manipulation of the flow of breath through the nostrils balances the 2 sides of our personality. It leads to mental and emotional health. In fact, it is called the science of Hatha Yoga, the union of hot (Ha) and cold(Tha) subtle energies. The focus is to balance the 2 airflow in our nostrils.

Furthermore, the subtle energy flow, once balanced and the nadis once purified, facilitate the awakening of spiritual energy. The result is we will positively transform our outlook on life and on ourselves.


In Sanskrit, kapala means ‘skull’ and bhati means ‘shines’. Therefore the term Kapalabhati means an exercise that makes the skull shine. This type of breathing exercise cleanses the respiratory system and the nasal passages and the lungs. It is the best exercise to increase oxygen in the system.

As a matter of fact, when practiced on a regular basis, the face shines with good health and radiance. One needs to learn correctly and avoid hyperventilation when practiced incorrectly.


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