Pranayama ( प्राणायाम – Prāṇāyāma)

Prāna means life force/ life energy / Breath.

āyāma means to extend, draw out, restrain, or control.

Together it means “Extension of the life force” / “Control of Breath”.

Roots of Pranayama

Patanjali, ‘Father of Modern Yoga’ described Ashtanga in his work Yoga Sutras.

Ashtanga refers to the 8-limbed paths. “Astha” is the number eight and “ang” means limb.

In this first five limbs are the Bahiranga (external) practices of yoga and the last three limbs are the Antaranga (internal) practices of yoga.

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of yoga.

Types of breathing techniques

Types of breathing techniques in pranayama are divided into three stages:

  • Puraka, (conscious inhalation)
  • Kumbhaka (Antarkunbhaka – internal breath retention & Bahirkumbhaka  – external breath retention)
  • Rechaka (exhalation)

Pranayama is used with other practices like physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dhyana).


The main motive of the pranayama is to connect your body and mind. It aims at channelling the flow of excess oxygen into the lungs.

It lives in each living being and thought is the highest and most refined action of prana. As we breathe, the movement of lungs inhaling air is the expression of prana. Pranayama is not simply the breathing, but the control of the muscular force activating the lungs.

Types of Pranayama

There are different types of Pranayama. The ancient Indian sages knew that some breathing techniques were simple to practice and bring great relaxation to the body and mind. These breathing techniques can be practiced with ease and at any time of the day on an empty stomach. They are:

  • Bhramari Pranayama
  • Moorchha Pranayama
  • Surya Bhedi Pranayama
  • Kapalbhati Pranayama
  • Ujjayi Pranayama
  • Anulom Vilom Pranayama
  • Dirga Pranayama
  • Sheetali Pranayama


Pranayama has its own benefits.

Few of them are:

  • Decreases stress
  • Improves the lungs function
  • Reduces the Blood pressure (BP)
  • Improves the quality of sleep
  • Provides relaxation to the nervous system
  • Cures respiratory issues like asthma
  • Cures allergies
  • Relieves headaches
  • Lifts up your mood, etc.,

Pranayama technique is also excellent for healing, chakra balancing and getting rid of breathing or respiratory problems.

Edited/ Reviewed By: Tejaswini (MA in Linguistics)

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