Purification of body is the primary step of yoga with reference to Gheranda Samhita, one of the prominent Hatha Yoga texts. Thus, before beginning the practice of asana or pranayama, one must cleanse one’s body through the Shuddhi Kriya processes of Dhauti, Basti, Neti, Trataka, Nauli and Kapalabhatti. Once the aspirant completes the practice of purifying the body, then he/she is eligible for further practices of asana and pranayama.
Sage Patanjali believed that every individual must first follow the practice of Yama and Niyama – the code of conduct for oneself and the society, followed by the practice of Asana and thenceforth Pranayama. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras define this practice of Ashtanga Yoga which is considered to be the ideal one, thus termed as Raja Yoga. Ultimately, Hatha Yoga too believes that the aim and purpose of Yoga is to bring about oneness with the Lord – Samadhi. Hatha Yoga follows the principles of physical practice initially so that the Sadhak can gradually prepare himself/herself to reach Raja Yoga.
The practice of Pranayama can be done regularly. The aim of Pranayama is to control one’s breath with awareness so that the mind is free from distractions. It is difficult to control one’s mind; hence Pranayama enables one to control the breath first, thereafter helping to control all irrelevant thoughts going on and creating nuisance in the daily routine.
Contraindications of Pranayama:
- Pranayama can be introduced to children once they enter the age of 12 years old. Before that, some breathing techniques can be taught.
- Patients with heart ailments or asthma must do pranayama as per their capacity. They are recommended to do Pranayama without retention of breath.
Steps to do Pranayama:
- Do a preliminary conditioning in Sukhasana (crossed legs) or any meditative posture comfortable to the practitioner.
- Do not strain or constrict unduly any part of the body.
- Keep the spine erect and breathe normally.
- Pranayama is followed after having performed some asanas.
- Pranayama should be done under the guidance of a Yoga Instructor or Yoga Teacher who can introduce the process of “inhalation” as “Puraka” and “exhalation” as “Rechaka” and “retention” of breath as “Kumbhaka”.
Some of the practices of Pranayama are:
- Equal Breathing
- Diaphragm Breathing
- Inter-Coastal Breathing
- Clavicular Breathing
As mentioned in the traditional Hatha Yoga practices, following is the list of the practices of Pranayama that can be done every day:
- Surya Bhedan
- Chandra Bhedan
- Anuloma Vilom