Breathing is the life source. The Pranayamas (breathing techniques) make free flow of energy in the body so as to purify the energy channels of the body (Nadis). In addition, the Pranayamas provide oxygen and nutrients to every cell of the body.
Four stages of Bandha
1. Puraka (Inhalation). A single inhalation by drawing in air smoothly and continuously.
2. Abhayantra Kumbhaka (Pause after inhaling). It is deliberate stoppage of the flow of air and retention of air in the lungs. While doing so there should be no movement of lungs or muscles or any part of the body and any incipient movements whatsoever.
3. Rechaka (Exhalation). It is smooth and continuous exhalation by merely relaxing the tensed muscles as against the muscular energy used for inhaling. In this way the air go out from the lungs in relaxed condition.
4. Bahya Kumbhaka (Pause after exhaling or empty pause). This is the fourth stage of breathing. Pause after exhaling. This empty pause completes the cycle. It terminates when the pause ends and begins a new inhalation.
Full pause means retaining of air in the lungs after deliberate stoppage of the flow of air. In this process no movement of lungs or any part of the body is involved. As against this, the empty pause is deliberately prolonged and completes the breathing cycle and terminates when the pause ends and inhalation starts. Here the techniques used are prolonging the pauses. Breathing passages are deliberately blocked without any chance to escape when the chest and abdominal muscles get relaxed. These techniques are known as Bandhas.
Bandh or Bandha is a Sanskrit word meaning bind, bond or bound. The prolonged breathing pauses bind or block the air in the lungs by locking the air channels. The parts of the body involved in the Bandhas are (1) lips and palate, (2) glottis, (3) chin, (4) diaphragm. The first two play major roles in prolonging full pauses. The last two have much importance for empty pause.
There are four important Bandhas
1. Bandha involving lips and palate. First, close the lips lightly. No air should escape through the mouth. Press the lips against the teeth to reinforce the closing of the lips. Lift the soft palate against the roof of the pharynx and then close the passage into the nostrils.
2. Bandha involving glottis. Close the glottis to block the air in the lungs. When swallowing anything the glottis get closed automatically. Stop the swallowing movement at the point where the trachea is closed. Then combine both the lips and palate closure with glottis closure when a lighter lock is produced.
3. Bandha involving chin. Press the chin close to the chest and drop the head to maintain immobility of muscle and air movements. This pose helps holding an empty pause. The pressure of the chin on the chest pushes the base of the tongue and the larynx up into the pharynx and against the palate. This helps resist the pressure created by the vacuum in the lungs.
4. Bandha involving diaphragm. It is also called Uddiyana Bandha. Raise diaphragm and keep it immobile during an empty pause. Draw in abdomen to the maximum and push out the air before engaging in this Bandha. Conduct one or two mock inhalations with no admission of any air before engaging in the maximum relaxation during this pause. This is aimed at obtaining full control and more comfort. Combine chin lock and raised diaphragm techniques to retain an empty pause. These techniques are commonly employed together in sitting postures. However, they can be done in standing postures as well.