Breathing exercises also known as Pranayama in yoga are extremely important practices to incorporate during this time of corona virus. These specific breathing exercises focus on exhalation and remove toxins from the lungs and from your body. This can help you to stay protected from any respiratory diseases such as coronavirus.

When you include pranayama in your daily practice you are helping to strengthen your lungs. These breathing exercises can increase your lungs capacity to absorb oxygen. The more oxygen intake in your body the greater is the rate of healing and recovery. The ideal time to practice these following breathing exercises is early in the morning but it can also be done in the evening or at night. Avoid practicing Kapal Bhati after eating a meal as it should be done on an empty stomach. In fact try to keep a gap of 90 minutes between your practice and your last meal. If you are a beginner start practicing at a slow speed as you slowly become familiar with these techniques.

Bhastrika Pranayama
Bhastrika is considered one of the most powerful pranayama. Bhastrika meaning Bellow, pranayama meaning breathing techniques. While practicing this pranayama, the sound made by your breath resembles the sound of the bellow used by blacksmiths. This is the reason behind the name of this pranayama.

Formation and Method
• Take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air.

• Exhale completely

•Inhalation and exhalation should be done in a 1:1 ratio. For example, if you breathe in for 6 counts, you must take 6 counts to exhale

• Now begin practicing the technique by inhaling and exhaling with force

• To begin with, practice at least 21 times (one round of inhalation and exhalation will count as one time).

• As you flow with your practice, you will observe that it expands your lung, your chest broadens, your nostrils are clearer and the flow of air is smooth and free.

• With the practice of Bhastrika, from chest, you can proceed to inhale and exhale with your stomach.

• Observe your breath where your lungs and stomach are engaged and keep strengthening your practice.

Kapal Bhathi
Kapal Bhathi is one of the most powerful of the pranayama techniques, and helps to eliminate toxins from the body. ‘Kapal’ means skull and ‘bhati’ means ‘shining/illuminating’ in Sanskrit. Therefore, this Kapal bhati Pranayam is also known as Skull Shining Breathing Technique.

Formation and Method
• Inhale normally and focus on exhaling with a short, rhythmic and forceful breath

• Exhale through the nostrils with some force and sound, as though you are trying to clear your nostrils. And then inhale but without too much effort or force.

• As you exhale, contract your belly muscles and pull your naval inward toward the spine. Put some effort into contracting and pulling the belly in. Then release the contraction as you inhale. Inhalation doesn’t require much effort.

Khand Pranayama
Khand which in Sanskrit means ‘piece or segment’ is the most dynamic and powerful a breathing technique where your breath is divided. When you breathe in two parts –both inhalation and exhalation, it is known as Dwikhand Pranayama – a variation of Khand. People with respiratory problems, athletes, runners, and mountain climbers can find this pranayama beneficial as it increases performance capacity.

Formation and Method
• Sit in any comfortable pose

• Straighten your back and close your eyes

• Place your palms on your knees facing up (in Prapthi Mudra)

• As you inhale, divide your breath into two equal parts

• Without retaining the breath in your lungs, exhale twice

To practice these pranayama techniques, Sukhasana, Ardha Padmasana or Padmasana are the three asanas which you can be seated in. Prapti mudra is the ideal mudra for Bhastrika pranayama. Kapal Bhati and Khand pranayama. These can be done in three levels: Shaant, Madyam, tivra. Shaant is soft and slow, Madyam is medium and Tivra means fast.

When you are a beginner in this technique, it is most advisable to practice in Shaant gathi and slowly, build your practice level, move towards Madhyam and then finally, Tivra Gami. By practicing in Tivra gami, you will gain expertise on that level but it does not mean that Shant gati is not for an advanced practitioner as all these three levels have a positive impact on the body and mind.

– By Grand Master Akshar, yoga expert