Pranayama is a yogic breathing exercise which has tremendous benefits. It ensures the free flow of vital energy throughout the body. It also calms the mind and helps to control it. There is an intimate connection between breath and nerve currents.
During practice of Pranayama you should sit comfortably while ensuring that your spine, neck and head are erect. Do this exercise before meals or at least two hours after a meal. You should never strain during this exercise. The breath should never be retained for longer than what is comfortable.
Raise your right hand and rest your index and middle fingers on your forehead, such that the thumb is next to the right nostril and the third finger is next to the left nostril. Close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe in and out of the left nostril five times. Then release the pressure on your right nostril and close the left nostril with your third finger. Breathe in and out of the left nostril five times. Keep on alternating between both nostrils until you have used each nostril at least ten times for five breaths each time. Use a normal rate of respiration and do not breathe heavily. After about ten days of this practice you can advance to the next stage.
Inhale through the left nostril while closing the right nostril with your thumb. At the end of this inhalation, close the left nostril with the third finger and exhale from the right nostril after releasing the pressure of the thumb on it. Then inhale through the right nostril while keeping the left nostril closed and then exhale from the left nostril after releasing the pressure on it and closing the right nostril. This constitutes one round. During the breathing process, time each inhalation and exhalation by counting mentally. Inhalation and exhalation should be of equal duration and you should not pause between each breath. Start with breathing in for a count of ten and gradually increase the count to about fifteen as you get more used to this practice. Do not strain during this process. If you feel uncomfortable reduce the duration of inhalation and exhalation. Do ten rounds daily for at least fifteen days. When you feel fully comfortable with this process, you can go to the next stage.
Close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril for a count of five. Then close both nostrils at and retain the breath for a count of five. Next exhale through the right nostril for a count of five, while the left nostril is closed. Then inhale through the right nostril, retain the breath and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round. Keep the ratio of inhalation, retention and exhalation as 1:1:1. Practice no more than five rounds of this in one session. After a few days of practice, alter the ratio of inhalation, retention and exhalation to 1:2:2. As you get comfortable with the practice, you can increase the duration of inhalation to a count of six and then to seven and eight. After a few weeks of practice, change the ratio to 1:4:2. If you are breathing in for a count of 8, retain the breath for a count of 32 and exhale for a count of 16. Never retain the breath for longer than is comfortable and do not strain under any circumstances. You can reduce the duration of inhalation, if you find it difficult to maintain the ratio. If you experience any discomfort, discontinue the practice and consult with an expert. Do not do more than five rounds of this practice in one session. This level is sufficient to bring tremendous benefits to the practitioner including calmness of mind and good health. This should be done before meditative practice. Pranayama is a very powerful technique for rousing the potential energy in humans and advanced practice should only be done under the guidance of a qualified teacher.