Pranayama, or breathwork, is a crucial component of yoga practice and is one of the foundational limbs of yoga to proceed to higher levels of yoga practice. Combining Ayurveda and pranayama can help you find balance from within. Pranayama helps to shift the flow of prana, or vital energy in the body, to relieve energetic blockages and move you closer towards enlightenment. But not every pranayama practice is beneficial for people with different doshas.
To gain the most benefits from your pranayama or breathwork practice, it is essential to keep the Ayurvedic properties of these practices in mind and select them according to your dosha and current imbalance. See below for an overview of the five most common pranayama techniques and their Ayurvedic properties so that you can begin combining Ayurveda and pranayama!
The Ayurvedic Properties of 5 Key Pranayama Practices:
1. Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)
Ujjayi pranayama is a warming breathing exercise that is commonly practiced during Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice, before meditation, or before bed. This pranayama technique helps calm and focus the mind, relieves anxiety, and assists in respiratory tract disorders, hypertension, insomnia, and fatigue. Since this is a warming and stimulating breath, the excessive practice of this technique can increase vata and pitta dosha, but it can also be very balancing for kapha dosha.
2. Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati Pranayama)
Although kapalabhati pranayama is a breathing technique, this practice is technically classified as a shatkarma or cleansing practice in traditional yoga. This breathing exercise is well known for cleansing the respiratory tract, removing accumulated mucus in the nose and throat, increasing the body temperature, metabolism, and digestive fire, and relaxing the body and mind. Due to this practice’s warming effects, it can aggravate vata and pitta doshas when done in excess. However, this practice is primarily a cleansing technique and is beneficial for all doshas, particularly kapha dosha, which tends to suffer from mucus accumulation.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
Alternate nostril breathing is a powerful breathing technique for cleansing the energy channels of the body, balancing inner metabolic processes, promoting clarity and focus, improving stamina and concentration, and treating psychological imbalances, endocrine disorders, anxiety, stress, insomnia, diabetes, constipation, asthma, and chronic fatigue. This pranayama practice is best for vata dosha as it is a gentle and calming technique, but it is neutral to pitta and kapha doshas, so anyone can easily practice it.
4. Cooling Breath (Sheetali Pranayama)
Sheetali pranayama is a cooling and moistening breathing technique that can help control thirst, hunger, and sleep. It can also increase the flow of prana, reduce excess inner heat, purify the body, facilitate mental relaxation, and help treat halitosis, high blood pressure, mental tension, and heating conditions. Due to this breathing technique’s cooling nature, it is best practiced for pacifying pitta dosha, which tends to suffer from overheating. However, it may aggravate vata and kapha dosha, so it should be avoided if these doshas are imbalanced.
5. Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
Bhramari pranayama is a profound breathing technique that helps you tap into the self and the universe’s subtle inner vibratory nature. This breathing technique is beneficial for women preparing for labor, treating insomnia, reducing anxiety, and calming the mind. This pranayama practice is also a cooling breathing practice, which benefits pitta dosha the most and may aggravate vata and kapha dosha.
Let’s Combine Ayurveda and Pranayama
Pranayama is an immensely beneficial practice for cleansing the body, sharpening the mind, and revitalizing the soul. Incorporating pranayama into your daily routine can transform your life for the better and help you proceed further on your yogic path. But it is crucial to keep in mind your unique Ayurvedic constitution in your pranayama practice to ensure that you are not furthering any imbalance physically or mentally.
If you are interested in learning more about pranayama and how to tailor your practice to your Ayurvedic constitution, please contact me for a one-on-one online Ayurvedic consultation or a private yoga therapy session. I will tailor a pranayama practice based on your needs and help you assess where your current roadblocks in your practice may be and how you can move forward more effectively. Contact me for more information!
See you next time (: