Pranayama- Increase Oxygenation & Lung capacity
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Yoga has been the go to science of maintaining a proper body and mind in India since ancient times. It is a complete system of enriching every part of the body whether it be the physical body, mental health or internal systems. There are various processes in Yoga that are dedicated to maintaining the proper function of the internal systems. Probably the most famous among these is known as Pranayama. Pranayama is a system of using breath to clean and detoxify internal systems. The major results are better oxygenation and lung capacity.
Lately, oxygenation levels and lung capacity have become vital in the public eye. Even though we come to this realization now, Yogic teachers have been teaching us ways to strengthen our lungs for centuries. The method to do that is by practicing Pranayama. In this article, we will show you the 4 most effective types of Pranayama which help you to boost your oxygenation levels and lung capacity.
Even though there are many types of Pranayama, all of which are beneficial, we picked 4 that are backed by medical research and the results are astonishing. In this study found on the US National Library of Medicine, you can see for yourself how effective Pranayama techniques can be for the pulmonary system. The 4 types of Pranayama are:
Pranav is one of the easiest and most beneficial types of Pranayama. It vibrates the whole lung, throat and sinus region using your vocal frequencies. It takes the "OM" sound and divides it into the three root sounds that are the "A" sound, the "O" sound and the "M" sound. The "A" sound vibrates the lower lung region. You can feel this by placing a hand on the chest. The "O" sound vibrates the throat region and can be felt by placing a hand on the throat. The "M" sound vibrates the sinus and skull and can be felt by placing a hand on your nostrils. The "OM" sound is very central to yoga and is one of the primary mantras used in Yoga.
Like any other pranayama, Pranav should be done in early morning and on an empty stomach. However, Pranav can be done at any time of the day, just make sure there is a gap of at least 2 hours since your last meal. There are no contraindications to Pranav. People of all ages can do it. It is a gentle healing exercise which can help to get mental clarity and uplift your energy along with the physical benefit. Everyone should do this exercise. Everyone can benefit from healthy lung function. Healthy lungs result is better oxygenation of the blood and the body. It also improves mental focus and clarity. The vibrations produced have their own healing effects on the body. They also result in a rich and powerful voice.
Frequencies are an important part of yoga and have certain effects on the body which must not be underestimated. We have an article on this topic that you can find on our website for more details.
The video below will guide you on the steps to performing Pranav Pranayama.
2. Brahmari Pranayama
Brahmari consists of deep inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils with the mouth closed. During the exhalation you are required to produce a vibration or a humming sound in your throat. This vibration affects your throat and nasal passage and helps to clear them. It also brings focus inward and is used to clear the mind for meditation.
Like any other pranayama, Brahmari is best done early in the morning on an empty stomach. A well rested mind and body allows for better focus. You can do Brahmari before bedtime also for better sleep , but please make sure there is a gap of at least 2 hours since your last meal. Beginners should start the the practice with at least 3 mins and gradually take it to 10 mins at their own pace.
A word of warning, people with heart disease, chest infection and ear infection should take this practice slow and gradually. Do not breathe forcefully. Women who are on their cycles and pregnant women should avoid this practice. People with no contraindication can do the breaths with some force and the vibration will be felt through your whole skull. Brahmari is meant to quiet the mind and bring focus inward. Any one with stress, anger and tension issues will benefit from brahmari practice. People who have trouble meditating can also use this for better focus. People suffering from sleep issues can use Brahmari for a more restful sleep. If you want the body to heal, mental calm is absolutely necessary and Brahmari helps you to get there.
Yogis recommend that the Shanmukhi mudra be used while doing brahmari. It is not necessary but it can be very helpful. Shanmukhi mudra involves blocking your ears with your thumbs, resting your index finger on your eyelids. The middle fingers go on your nostrils, while the ring finger goes above your lips. The little finger is placed under the lips. The Shanmukhi mudra helps in shutting out external influences and keeping focus inward. This helps you attain the Yogic state of "Pratyahara", which is the withdrawal of the 5 senses, and is essential to meditation.
The placement of the fingers will also help you to feel the vibrations. this helps you to keep your focus inward to realize the maximum benefits. People with migraine issues might find it uncomfortable to close their eyes for a longer time. In that case, block your ears with your thumbs and place the rest of the fingers on your head. If you do the hum with some strength, you can feel the vibrations all through your skull.
The video below will provide guided steps to performing Brahmari Pranayama.
"Nadi" is the energy channel and "Shuddi" is clearing. This exercise involves breathing through alternate nostrils and clearing up energy channels. Inhaling through the left nostril activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body and mind. Inhaling through the right nostril activates the sympathetic nervous system which energizes the body and mind. Practicing this Pranayama balances both the systems and clears the nasal passages for better oxygenation.
Like any pranayama this should be practiced early in the morning on an empty stomach. Nadishuddi should be done for at least 5 mins, you can do more if you want to, but it is not necessary. There are not many contraindications to Nadishuddi. Anyone can do it . The only things are that the sinuses must not be blocked and the stomach must be empty. Do not hold your breath during Nadishuddi Pranayama.
The major medical benefits are that it increases the lung capacity and has an immediate effect on regulating blood pressure. Pregnant women can use it to regulate emotions, just make sure to not hold the breath and keep it flowing in and out. Nadishuddi is also a way of achieving balance between the feminine and masculine energies present in all of us. It harmonizes the left and right brain hemispheres. It balances both sides of the autonomic nervous system, the result is that the person practicing Nadishuddi experiences an elevated sense of calm. The practice also serves as therapy for the respiratory system.
The video below provides detailed instructions to performing Nadishuddi.
It is often referred to as "Bellows Breath" because your lungs mimic the action of a pair of bellows. What you are aiming to do is to inhale and exhale air with force using your lungs. Bhastrika is a powerful exercise and must be done correctly. It is best if done under the supervision of a trained practitioner.
Like all other Pranayama, aim for early morning and an empty stomach. In the case of Bhastrika, this is very important. It cannot be done at any other time. You must take a few slow and deep breaths in and out to condition your body before you do it. It is highly important to not just jump into Bhastrika. Students are recommended to practice Nadishuddi for a few weeks before even attempting Bhastrika.
Essential warnings that must be mentioned. Bhastrika is a powerful tool as I have mentioned. Do not do it for a long time. 3 - 5 mins with medium force is more than enough and more could cause damage. Bhastrika should not be practiced by pregnant women or women who are on their cycles. It is also contraindicated for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy and vertigo. People with significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, abdominal surgeries and anyone at the risk of stroke should avoid Bhastrika as well. Those with asthma or chronic bronchitis should practice Bhastrika only under the guidance of a trained teacher.
Benefits of Bhastrika are wide ranging as well. It is good for brain oxygenation and increasing blood oxygenation levels. It will increase lung capacity and breath holding power. It benefits the nervous system. It helps you to energize the body and mind. It will stimulate digestion and tone the abdominal region. It is good for people with depression and anxiety as well as helps in treating fibrosis. It is also great for clearing lungs and for people who suffer from repetitive cough, flu, respiratory issues, allergies and breathlessness. It also helps in strengthening your immunity.
While doing Bhastrika it is important to not shake your body excessively. The action of performing Bhastrika will move your shoulders and chest by itself. Keep everything relaxed and let the movement happen on its own. The video below will show you how.
These exercises have been medically proven to increase your lung capacity and enrich your oxygenation levels. Our bodies are designed to release 70% of ingested toxins through breathing alone! Proper breathing habits are a great thing to have and the very foundation of a healthy body.