Pranayama - The Importance Of Exhalation

Exhalation is the most important part of pranayama. Rechaka pranayama helps to lengthen exhalation. Puraka pranayama accentuates inhalation and Kumbhaka pranayama helps to hold the breath after both inhalation and exhalation.

Aids To Prolong Pauses

There are some time honored techniques that prolong the pauses. These aids are called bandha. 'Bandha' is a Sanskrit word which means band or bound or bind in English. The bandha binds the air in our lungs and locks the air channels so that no air escapes or enters our body.

There are four important bandhas.

  1. Lips and palate: This involves a skill used by swimmers. The lips are closed tightly so that no air can escape through the mouth. Pressing the lips against the teeth will help in tightening them. If your nostrils are clear, you can lift your soft palate against the roof of your pharynx and close this passage. After some training, you will learn how to close your passage to the nostrils automatically. Some air pressure from your lungs may also help you to hold your palate in a closed position.
  2. Glottis: You can lock air in your lungs by closing your glottis. The glottis automatically closes when we swallow. You need to practice to stop your swallowing movements at that point where your trachea is closed. At first, you might find it difficult, but with practice, you will attain voluntary control over your involuntary processes. If you wish to lock the air more tightly, you need to close your lips and palate with your glottis.
  3. Chin: In jalandhara bandha or chin lock, you need to press your chin close to the chest and drop the head so that the air movements and muscles become immobile. This position is very useful in holding an empty pause as it pushes the base of the tongue and the larynx up into the pharynx and against the palate. This in turn helps in resisting the pressure caused by the vacuum in the lungs.
  4. Diaphragm: In uddiyana bandha you need to raise the diaphragm and bring it to a standstill position during an empty pause. The abdomen also has to be pulled in and up as far as possible. You have to pull out all air before using this bandh. Both chin lock and raised diaphragm aids can be combined to retain an empty pause. These can be practiced in either standing or sitting position. They also help a person in attaining mastery over one's respiration cycle.

Safety Guidelines

Pranayama and other breathing exercises accentuate on conscious breathing. You should know your limits while doing these exercises. These exercises should not be performed beyond one's limits. There are a few general principles to follow:

  • Never exercise in a hurry.
  • Don't repeat the exercises too often.
  • Exercises should not be mechanical.
  • Don't overdo the exercises to the point of fatigue.
  • Concentrate on the exercise while performing it.
  • Exercise should always be smooth and non-violent.
  • Breathing should not be jerky or irregular.

If you pay attention to how your body reacts during these breathing exercises, there is no need to worry. Remember exhalation is very important for your whole body.