The 6 Pranayamas Every Yogi Knows and So Could You

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

The practice of Pranayama, or controlled breathing techniques, is the peak of yoga practice. Pranayama has a vast number of wonderful physical, mental, emotional, and etheric benefits that clean and purify your energy channels and blow your mind! 

New to Pranayama? Read more about it in my other blog, The Power of Yogic Breathing. Also, do check out my website’s Practice Online section for videos of me teaching pranayamas. I explain how to do them so you can learn and experience their amazing benefits.

There are many different types of pranayamas, or breathing techniques. Before I decide which one I will practice I tune in to my body and see if I need more energy, cooling, release tension or stress, I ask my body and wait for an answer from my higher self.

Here are some of the most well known and powerful ones that you can practice daily to boost your mental, emotional and physical health:

1. Breath of Fire (Agni Pranayama) Breath of Fire is a rhythmic breath with equal emphasis on inhaling and exhale powered from the navel point and solar plexus. A foundational breath technique in Kundalini Yoga, this practice is powerful cleansing pranayama. The purpose of this breathing technique is to increase the flow of prana in the body.

These are some of the benefits:

  • Purifies and oxygenates the blood

  • Increases lung capacity

  • Detoxifies the body by removing harmful toxins and other substances

  • Strengthens the abdomen

  • Strengthens and balances the nervous system

  • Clears nasal passages and removes excess mucus

  • Improves digestion

  • Reduces addictive impulses for alcohol, drugs and smoking

How to practice Breath of Fire:

Sit tall while placing your hands in your lap or in Gyan mudra. Close your eyes and focus just above your eyebrows in the centre point. Relax the upper abdominal muscles while inhaling through the nose and powerfully exhale the air through the nose with no pause between the inhale and exhale. Breath of Fire is rapid, rhythmic and continuous. Practice this for 1- 3 minutes at a time and repeat upto 3 times with a stillness and observation of your breath in between the rounds.

Contraindications: If you have high blood pressure, heart problems or pregnant you should avoid breath of fire.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing ( Nadhi Shodhana / Anulom Vilom)

This simple yet powerful breathing technique involves inhaling from one nostril and exhaling the other. This type of breathwork is useful to quiet your mind, body and emotions. There are different variations of this pranayam also called nadi shodhana when there is Kumbhaka, retention of breath, although they all serve to restore balance by regulating the flow of air through the nostrils.

These are some of the benefits:-

  • Improves our ability to focus the mind and enter a meditative state

  • Improves mindfulness in the moment

  • Expels toxins from the body

  • Reduces stress and anxiety

  • Rejuvenates the nervous system

  • Reduces fatigue

  • Promotes overall well-being

  • Harmonizes the left and right hemisphere of the brain

How to practice Alternate Nostril Breathing: To practice sit tall with your spine erect. Place your left hand on your leg in Gyan Mudra. Raise your right hand to your face, placing your index and ring finger between your eyebrows, your thumb on the right nostril and ring and little finger on the left nostril. Inhale, press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril. Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right. Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. Do 5-10 such repetitions while keeping your eyes closed, and following your breath with your mind.

3. Lion’s Breath (Simha Pranayama)

The name refers to the fierce lion-like expression of the yogi's face and the roaring sound of the breath made when performing this pranayama. While this breath might look silly, it is an energetic and awakening breath to help you relax and destress through forceful exhalation. It lets you blow off steam and pent up anxiety in a fun and crazy way while at the same time building confidence.