Ujjayi Pranayama

Names

Ujjayi Pranayama, Ocean Breath

How to perform Ujjayi Pranayama

Sit in Siddhasana , Vajrasana, Padmasana or Bhadrasana with a straight spine. To practice Ujjayi Pranayama you inhale and exhale trough the nostrils. Inhale deeply and while you do that bring the back of your tongue up, thus making the passageway for air in your windpipe tighter. You will realize that you are making the sound of the ocean by pressing the air through smaller space than usual. During exhalation you do the same sound again.


The inhalation should last as long as the exhalation so that you are breathing in a steady rhythmus. Another possibility is to make the exhalation of the breath twice the time of the inhalation. You may not have noticed but you probably often do this sound without being aware of it as it is pleasant for your ears and provides relaxation.


There are two possible variations for Ujjayi Pranayama. The first one is to include Kumbhaka, the holding of breath in between inhalation and exhalation.


The second variation is to make Kumbhaka after the exhalation and to hold the breath out.

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama is a good pose for providing relaxation to the mind and your senses. It reduces the blood pressure and heart rate.


As it calms the mind it is also a beneficial pose for seniors to relax.

Ujjayi Pranayama is very good for meditation practitioner because you can increase focus and concentration by practicing it. It also purifies and activates the energy within the body and provides us control over the mental and physical body which is why it is also a good exercise for hyperactivity.


When you are suffering from pain, insomnia, migraine or headache you can relieve some of the symptoms by doing this pose regularly. It is also good against heat in the head.
Because of the deep breathing and the intensive works with the lungs this posture enhances the functions of the respiratory system.


You can practice this exercise in your office in the middle of your work. Just take a short break and perform a few rounds of Ujjayi Pranayama and it will refresh your mind and you can start all the things going on in your mind with new strength. You start with new energy and clear thoughts.

Focus Points

Make sure that your mouth is closed and you are breathing through your nose. You should be focused on relaxing yourself instead of being busy doing this exercise in perfection.

Trataka

Names

Trataka, Tratak, Fixed Gazing, Fixed Gazing meditation, Blinkless Gazing, Yogic Gazing

Tratak is a well-known Kriya or karma of the six karmas of yoga, the ‘Shatkarma’ and it also is a practice of meditation.

There are many different practices explained in different texts but they are all very similar. You can find the practice of Tratak with a betel leaf, a paper, a candle, a needle, darkness, open sky, a photograph, a deity, a crystal, a stone, a flower, the moon, a star, a painting, shadow, nature, a tree, ocean waves, a flag, a bird etc.

How to perform Trataka

The main practice of Trataka is to gaze. It doesn’t matter which object you use for this but you should focus on it and gaze at it without blinking. You can even close your eyes and focus within with closed eyes.


Choose any object that is currently available to you. If you are in nature, choose a tree, a stone, a flower or anything similar. If you are out in the night, do Trataka with the moon or the stars. If you are inside your home, just use anything that you see and can focus on.
The most common and suggested one is the practice with a lit candle.


Light a candle in a dark room and place it about 75 to 90 centimeters away from you at the level of your eyes. Focus on the flame and continuously stare at it without blinking until tears start running down your cheeks. Then close your eyes but keep gazing at the same point from behind your eyelids for 15 to 20 seconds. After that relax your eye muscles.
Place your palms over your eyes without any pressure on the eyeballs. Gently move your palms in circles. Take a towel or tissue to wipe your eyes.


After that you can continue the practice. You can do this exercise for 12 to 15 minutes.

For inner Trataka practice, close your eyes and start with gazing on your third eye between your eyebrows. Further you focus on your breath and then you focus on your mind and thoughts and just pick one thought or picture and focus on that. For example think of your loved one. Gaze on it inside of you and then narrow your circle of vision and point your focus more specifically at one point in the picture. Continue the practice until you can forget your surroundings completely. That is the stage of deep meditation. This is called Trataka meditation, also known as Dharana or concentration.

Benefits of Trataka

Trataka is very obviously a very great exercise for the eyes. It moves the eye muscles which are in the usual way of looking often only staring without moving. It can help people who suffer from glaucoma, conjunctivitis, eye herpes, keratoconus, macular degeneration, ocular hypertension and sometimes even for retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt disease. Usual and common problems like hypermetropia (longsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism can be relieved. Peripheral vision problems, presbyopia and diplopia can all get help through the practice of Trataka.


If you suffer from frequent headaches, you can also get relief by regular practice of Trataka.
Apart from physical benefits for your eyes, there are many benefits of Trataka on your mind. You increase your concentration in every day’s life by concentrating regularly for a little while in Trataka. You will be able to focus and concentrate longer and better without getting distracted.


Through this time of concentration in between, you also reduce your stress in daily life. This is good for your mental health, helps you get better sleep and brings your nervous system to peace.

Focus Points

Do not let your thoughts distract your eyes from their focus. Keep concentrated.

Tips and Help

Keep breathing normally and stay relaxed, that helps you concentrate. If you are used to perform Dirgha Pranayama, deep yogic breathing, you can also use this breathing practice.
Keep a tissue or towel next to you for wiping your eyes and blowing your nose.

If you have an eye problem and you want to practice Trataka for that, please consult your doctor and yoga teacher before starting the exercise.

Shirshasana – Head Stand

Names

Shirshasana, Sirsana, Sirshasana, Head Stand

How to perform Shirshasana

Fold a blanket and place it in front of you. Sit on your toes and place your knees on the floor. Grab your elbows with your hands so that your lower arms touch each other. Place your arms in front of your knees. Now open your arms and interlace your fingers in front of your knees on the blanket so that your hands look like a triangle.


Place the top of your head on the blanket and support the back of your head with your interlaced hands by placing them on the back of your head. Straighten your knees so that you are only on your feet, arms and head. Make sure your back is also straight.


Now slowly shift your body weight to the front, over your head, and walk closer to your body with your toes. When you feel your back is in an angle of 90 degrees to the floor, start lifting your feet with exhalation from the ground and bring them up and straight, in vertical alignment with your body.


When you feel strain or, at the maximum, after three to five minutes, you slowly bring your feet down to the floor and come out of the pose.

Benefits of Shirshasana

The head stand is considered as one of the best yoga poses because of its vast amount of benefits and is, for that reason, sometimes called the ‘King of Yoga Poses’


Through the upside-down position, your blood flows more easily down where now is your head and your brain. This inversion is good for the blood circulation and your heart. The blood is purified and cleansed through its strengthened flow.


Through the easy flow of blood into your head, the whole area is supplied with fresh oxygen which helps your brain to work properly and better. You will realize that you can concentrate better and your memory improved.


A better blood circulation can prevent headaches and migraines. People suffering from insomnia can also get relief by practicing this yoga pose. Even epilepsy is said to be relieved for yoga practitioners who do the head stand.


Your ears, eyes and nose benefit from the circulation as well and many issues can be prevented through inverted yoga postures like Shirshasana.


The scalp is supplied with blood which stimulates the growth of hair and can even prevent hair loss if it was caused by poor circulation.


This yoga exercise stimulates the thyroid gland, the pituitary and the pineal glands and thus improves their functions.


Of course it is an exercise that strengthens your muscles and with all these effects it also makes your immune system stronger and more resistant.


The head stand is also said to help with many sexual problems.

Focus Points

Keep normal breathing while you are in this pose. Try to straighten your legs up so that your body is a straight vertical line.

Tips and Help

Before performing Shirshasana you should already be warm and have done some exercise. Exhaling while lifting your legs will make it easier for you to come up.


If you are new to this exercise, you can first practice performing Ardha Shirshasana and when you have gained balance in this pose move on to the full head stand.

When to avoid Shirshasana

Do not hold this pose for a longer time, even though you feel you are capable of doing so. The pressure on your head and the blood circulating there can have negative effects if you hold the pose too long. Whenever you feel strain, come out of the yoga pose.


If you suffer from headache or a serious eye disease such as glaucoma, you should avoid this pose. High blood pressure patients and people with cardiac problems should also not practice the head stand. If you had neck injuries or hernia or if you currently suffer from back pain, you should always consult your doctor before performing this yoga pose.
Women should avoid Shirshasana during menstruation time and pregnancy.

Shavasana – Corpse Pose

Names

Shavasana , Savasana , Corpse Pose

Unfortunately for this yoga pose a wrong pronunciation of its name has become popular in many parts of the world. Even many known yoga teachers, studios and websites call it ‘Savasana’ instead of ‘Shavasana’.


The correct Sanskrit name is ‘Shavasana’. It consists of two terms “Shav” + “Asana”. In Sanskrit “Shav” means dead body and “Asana” means posture or pose. Literally translated it thus means posture of dead body, acting and lying like a dead body.

How to perform Shavasana

As its name already says, you only need to lie as if you were a dead body to perform Shavasana. Lie on your mat, your body flat on the floor. Let your body completely lose. All your body muscles should be relaxed.


Your hands are lying next to your body with the palms facing the ceiling. Your feet are shoulder-wide apart from each other and relaxed.


Your body should lay like a dead body without any movement. Close your eyes, go inside, focus on your breath and simply relax. Relax your toes, relax your calf muscles, your thighs, your hips, your waist, your abdomen, your back, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your neck, your face muscles, your eye balls and your tongue. Just relax your entire body and breathe normally. Visualize how you completely relax with each of your body parts.

Benefits of Shavasana

Shavasana is obviously a very good position for relaxation. It is also known as the yoga pose for final relaxation at the end of your yoga praxis. It is beneficial for all kinds of problems, physical and mental.


It is recommended to do Shavasana after yoga practice, as this is position relaxes your body and mind, distributes and spreads energy to your entire body and prepares your body for what you do after your exercise.


Apart from this Shavasana is also very good for reducing stress. It helps overcome depression, is good against, fatigue, nervousness and insomnia. It even helps you to regulate your blood pressure. Shavasana calms down your brain and improves concentration.


Shavasana is suggested against headaches, asthma, constipation and indigestion.
Overall it is a very beneficial pose to relax your body and mind which helps you in many ways in your daily life. You feel more at ease with making critical decisions and more relaxed in stressful situations. You have clearer thoughts and can think more quickly.
Practitioners of meditation like this pose if they want to do a relaxing meditation.

Focus Points

You should not sleep while performing Shavasana. Apart from the fact that you might start snoring in the middle of your yoga group, this pose is for relaxation of the body. It is a way of meditation, aware and awake.

Tips and Help

Make sure that you are not lying on the cold floor. You can also cover your body with a sheet or blanket.


If you feel tension in your back when you lie down in Shavasana, you can bend your knees and pull them tight to your chest before placing them back to the floor. You will feel that your back muscles are now more relaxed and at ease.


If you still have difficulty placing your legs just flat on the floor, you can use small pillows under your knees for support.


If you are suffering from back pain, back injuries or had back surgery, you should bend your knees and place your feet a foot away from your hips. This will support and relax your back.
This is also recommended for pregnant women. During pregnancy women can also use a pillow to raise their head and upper body if they feel like it.

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Names

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose

How to perform Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Sit in Dandasana with a straight spine. Spread your legs apart as far as possible. Now check which of your nostrils is active. If you are breathing from the right nostril, place your right hand on your left thigh, so that your arm comes in front of you. Bend down to your right leg and place your right shoulder on your thigh.


Now stretch your left arm over your head and reach in the direction of your right foot so that your left side is stretched nicely. If you can, grab your right toes with your left hand.
Repeat the same on your left side.


A variation of this posture is performed by bending your left knee and putting your left foot on your perineum.

Benefits of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana stimulates your sexual organs and thus enhances your sexual energy.


You can perform this yoga posture if you are suffering from slight lower back pain but avoid it when you have strong back pain.


The stretch and the moves of this exercise strengthen the blood circulation and the flow of blood in your system. In this way, your blood transports more oxygen into your brain and prevents as well as cured headaches, insomnia, anxiety and fatigue.


It is good for your hamstrings, kidneys, liver and groins as they all get a nice stretch.
With its movement and slight twist of the trunk, Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana improves digestion and clears the urinary tract.


With this yoga posture you can also strengthen and stretch your shoulders, spine, hips, thighs, knees, armpits, ribcage and the muscles on your sides.

Focus Points

Of course the aim in this yoga pose is to get as close as possible with your trunk to your leg and to reach your toe. Focus on your breath. Bend down with exhalation, come up with inhalation and while you are in the posture visualize coming further down with each breath.
Keep on breathing and smiling as it makes you look more beautiful.

Tips and Help

If you feel that the stretch of your hamstrings restrains you of bending forward bring your legs closer together as the bending is more important that the stretch of your hamstrings.

When to Avoid Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Avoid this posture when you are suffering from diarrhea or nausea.

Mula Bandha – Root Lock

Names

Mula Bandha, Moola Bandha, Root Lock

How to perform Mula Bandha

Mula means root and in this case it is indicating our perineum between the sexual organs and the anus, as well as the PC muscles and the pelvic floor.


To perform the Mula Bandha you can sit in Vajrasana, Siddhasana , Bhadrasana, Guptasana or Gorakshasana. Contract your perineum towards your navel with inhalation.

Close your eyes. Focus and visualize the muscles between your pubic bone and coccyx bone.


The contraction is the same feeling as when you need to go to toilet and you are holding the urine in your body. You also use these muscles when you are forcing yourself to urinate even when you don´t have to.


In the beginning you contract the muscles with inhalation and release them with exhalation. Slowly you can increase the time of practicing the contraction.
Deepen your breath.

Benefits of Mula Bandha


At the perineum is the bottom of our body, the junction and starting place of our nervous system. The three main Nadis or meridians Ida, Pingala and Sushumna also start from the perineum body.

By performing Mula Bandha, you stimulate both, the nervous system and the energy system, at their roots and beginning points.


This stimulation brings you a lot of good effects, one of them being that it calms your mind.

You get emotional and psychological strength and it makes your mind more stable and balanced so that it is easy for you to get rid of insecure feelings and negative emotions. This stability makes you less prone to phobias.


Additionally the pose will help you in controlling anger and to enhance the power of concentration.


It is one of the best exercises to activate the first chakra. That’s why it is good for all kinds of sexual and gynecological problems.

Focus Points

In this exercise you should focus on contracting your muscles.

Tips and Help

If you perform this exercise with the described breathing method it will be easier to concentrate on your muscles. Another help for this is closing your eyes.


In the beginning you can point out those muscles by placing your finger there to make sure you are not working with your anal muscle and the muscle of your sexual organ.

Maha Mudra

Names

Maha Mudra, Mahamudra

How to perform Maha Mudra

Sit in Dandasana with your spine and legs straight.

Place your left heel on your perineum.

The sole of the left foot should touch your right thigh. Inhale deeply.

With exhalation you bend forward and make all three bandhas or body locks, the Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha.

This means you contract your perineum muscles, place your chin on your chest and let the vacuum in your belly pull your navel up and in.

Lean forward to grab your right toes with both hands, hold the air out of your body and stay in the yoga pose.

For coming out of the pose, release the locks and come up with inhalation. Repeat this posture from the other side.

Benefits of Maha Mudra

In yogic scripture it is said to be one of the greatest postures as it includes all the three Bandhas.

This gives control and command over your mental and physical constitution. It has all the benefits of the three different locks combined in this posture.


Your digestion and metabolism with all your internal organs benefit from this yoga pose. Spleen, pancreas, kidney, gall bladder, bladder, prostate gland and your bowels are all stimulated to work properly. This of course helps you if you suffer from diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome.


Women’s menstruation pain and problems with the uterus and the ovaries can be prevented and cured.

If you have problems with your respiratory system like tuberculosis, this pose can help you.
By practicing this exercise you can strengthen your shoulders as well as your lumbar muscles.


The immune system as well as your endocrine system benefit from the exercise and your complete body is provided with energy. By pressing the heel on the perineum you also stimulate the nervous system which will bring benefits for your mental health.


With the combination of the locks the yoga pose provides blood flow and oxygenation to the brain which effects psychically by building up your self-confidence and concentration power.

Focus Points

Take care that the knee of the leg which is lying on the floor is straight.


When you perform this exercise, focus on your breath and on the locks. You should be aware that you should not breathe during the posture.

Don’t force yourself to stay longer in the posture than you can do easily. Never cross your limits!

Tips and Help

Before you practice the Maha Mudra, make sure you have practiced the three Bandhas separately so that you are sure how they feel.


Exhale from the mouth and close your eyes. If you cannot reach to your toes grab your ankle or calves depending on how far you can get.

Kapalbhati Pranayama

Names

Kapalbhati Pranayama

As Kapalbhati is a breathing exercise, it is known as a Pranayama but the original yogic scripture refers to it as one of the six cleansing techniques called ‘Kriyas’.

You can read about these cleansing techniques in our Kriya section.

How to perform Kapalbhati Pranayama

Sit in Vajrasana, Siddhasana , Padmasana or Bhadrasana. 


Inhale deeply into your belly through your nose. Then start pumping out the air by forcing your belly in.

The inhalation will be done automatically you should only focus on exhalation.

Your abdominal muscles will contract and push the air out. When you release them, air is immediately sucked back in.


When you feel tired, you complete your round of Kapalbhati with a complete exhalation and hold the air out after that.

Two rounds of breathing follow the first round. Then you inhale deeply and start all over again into the second round.


You can do this exercise 3 to 5 rounds or even more if you feel comfortable. You can also increase the number of exhalations per round by counting them and increasing them each time.

Benefits of Kapalbhati Pranayama

Kapalbhati is a very beneficial exercise for physical and mental health.


The movement of the belly in this breathing exercise is very good for your digestive system. It massages all abdominal organs as your spleen, pancreas, liver, kidneys, bladder, gall bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes and urinary tract.


With regular practice of Kapalbhati, you stimulate your digestion and activate the Apan Vayu, which also helps digesting your food. It works with your complete digestive system, metabolism and intestines and helps to digest even food which is stuck in the intestines.


Through the work of this breathing technique, you can prevent food to produce ‘ama’ (waste) in your body and stop unnecessary fat preserves. People who suffered from constipation and other digestion problems have got big relief through the practice of Kapalbhati.

Low appetite and anorexia – if not caused psychologically – are also results of irregular digestion and problems with the metabolism. Kapalbhati solves those digestion problems and can thus increase your appetite again.


The exercise reduces Pitta, acidity in the body.


Obviously your diaphragm, lungs and heart will also benefit from Kapalbhati, as it gets used in unusual activity and the air which moves in your body brings out toxins.

Diseases of the respiratory system like asthma, flue, cold, sinusitis and bronchitis can be relieved with this posture.

Kapalbathi increases the air and blood circulation in the upper body and brain and with it ears, eyes and nose. With this help to the blood circulation, you can even prevent heart strokes.


diabetes patients should do this posture regularly as is brings the blood sugar to a normal level and helps the pancreas to release insulin.


It strengthens the muscles in the back especially the ones next to the spinal column and in the abdomen. Like this stamina and strength can be improved.


Breathing with this technique provides calmness and stability, increases the memory and is good against hysteria.


There are however also benefits to your beauty and shape:

Kapalbhati purifies the blood and brings glow and shine to our skin. If you want to reduce some extra belly fat, do this exercise regularly and you will soon see an effect: a flattening belly.

Focus Points

Focus on your belly and on the exhalation so that you exhale and don’t actively inhale. You only move your belly, not your hips and shoulders.

Don´t jump up and down or make funny faces, simply concentrate on your exhalation.

Tips and Help

Always take two deep breaths between your rounds so that your system can relax from the previous round and that you can prepare your system for the next round.

If you are suffering from back pain please be gentle with your breathing. Then it will be good for your back pain. Performing Kapalbathi too forcefully can otherwise increase back pain.

When to Avoid Kapalbhati

Please avoid this posture if you are suffering from diarrhea.

Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Names

Kapal Randhra Dhauti, Scalp Cleansing

Kapal is the Sanskrit word for head. Randhra means hole. The Kriya thus means the cleansing of the hole of the head.


If you are not aware what this means, just think of the skull of a newborn baby. It is soft and at the top, there is a kind of hole. This is the place meant to be cleaned in this Dhauti.

How to perform Kapal Randhra Dhauti

In Kapal Randhra Dhauti, you rinse the top of your head with water. Lean forward and pour water on your head with one hand while rubbing the top of the head with the other flat hand.


Use water of a pleasant temperature and wash the top of your head. Some people refer to the scriptures’ advice to use cold water for this practice.

One needs to take into consideration however that these scriptures were written in India, a generally hot country where cold water is still not freezing through the influence of the daily sun.

It is thus safe to say that water at a normal temperature is good for use.


In the next step, you massage your temples with your thumbs, both clockwise and anticlockwise.


Additionally and to have more benefit, you can place your middle fingers from both sides to the top of your nose bone, just below your eyebrow. Hold your breath and gently massage your upper nose.


When you have to exhale, stop the massage and exhale with force.

Benefits of Kapal Randhra Dhauti

This technique is very good for calming your mind and brain.

Through the massage you reduce stress and by this can reduce problems of insomnia and even bipolar because you relax your mental situation enourmously.

You clear your thoughts and thus get more and more peace in your complete system.


Problems of headache and migraine are reduced and your nervous system has a chance to calm down, too.

In this way Kapal Randhra Dhauti also helps against depression – it gives you the chance to relax and see things another way! All kinds of stress and its symptoms can disappear with regular practice. Even bipolar disorder can be treated with this relaxation of your mind.


The calming effect is also good for your blood pressure and makes the blood circulate to your head, too. This prevents dizziness and of course the oxygen is beneficial for your brain power, too.


The water opens the pores of the scalp and cleans it.


Practitioners of meditation enjoy doing this technique as it helps you go into meditation easily.

Tips and Help

Also make sure to dry your head after washing will prevent you catching cold. It is recommended to practice this in the morning.

When to avoid Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Take care not to do this cleansing technique when it is cold as you could easily catch a cold.

It is working with the Kapha region of your body and thus the practice could increase the mucus if there is cold air around the person performing it.

Gati Avarodha Pranayama

Names

Gati Avarodha Pranayama, Speed Breaker Breathing

How to perform Gati Avarodha Pranayama

This exercise is called ‘Speed Breaker Breathing’, because in its performance it sounds as if you are just driving over a speed breaker while breathing.


While you inhale, you stop twice for a very short time, so that the inhalation is separated into three parts. With the last part you inhale completely until you are full of air.
You now hold your breath.


In the last step you exhale, also pausing twice and thus separating exhalation into three parts. With the last part you exhale the complete air from your body.

Benefits of Gati Avarodha Pranayama

Just as so many other Pranayama exercises, this one helps you to control your mind and thoughts, to calm down and relieve stress. It helps you to sort out your feelings, to know what you want.


Physically it helps you to regulate your blood pressure.


If you practice Gati Avarodha Pranayama regularly, you increase the length of Rechaka, Kumbhaka, Puraka, which is inhalation, holding and exhalation.


When exhaling, it additionally can help you to get rid of extra gas that has built up in your stomach.


And of course, you can do it anywhere, on a chair, in the office, in a train, on your couch and even in bed!

Tips and Help

Finding an easy and comfortable posture to sit in is good for all breathing exercises!