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Sukha Purvaka Pranayama Technique: Steps, Benefits & More

By PRANA EDITORS | Reviewed by JESSICA BATRA, RYT

 
  • Step-by-step instructions to practice Sukha Purvaka Pranayama in yoga

  • A breathwork technique to reduce stress and regain mental composure

  • Learn more about its applications, health benefits, and precautions

  • Also, check out our guide on Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

 
Woman practicing Sukha Purvaka Pranayama

Sukha Purvaka Pranayama is not commonly taught in popular Hatha Yoga branches, but it holds a revered place in the framework of breath training within other traditions. Also known as Shwasa Prashwasa, Gita Pranayama, or simply Sukha Pranayama, the name of this practice translates to "Comfortable or Easy Breathing," though it lacks a widely recognized English name.


From a traditional perspective, practicing Sukha pranayama is believed to enhance our Iccha Shakti (willpower) and uphold Brahmacharya (good conduct). In its modern adaptation, it serves as a means to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and alleviate the symptoms of high blood pressure.


Regardless of how and why you employ it in your practice, one truth holds firm - its structured sequence can be quite daunting for beginners. Therefore, we've created this guide on Sukha Purvaka Pranayama, with step-by-step instructions and insights into its benefits and precautions.


It is worth noting that this yoga technique falls within the intermediate-level breathwork category, so it is advisable to first master Viloma, Anuloma, and Pratiloma pranayama, which will lay a solid foundation for incorporating Sukha Purvaka Pranayama into your yoga practice.


What is Sukha Purvaka Pranayama


Sukha Purvaka Pranayama combines the Sanskrit words “Sukha," meaning "ease," Purvaka meaning "preceding," and "Pranayama," which pertains to yoga-based breathwork. Thus, Sukha Purvaka Pranayama sums up a technique that brings comfort and ease to your breath and being.


This technique is essentially a hybrid of Anulom-Vilom and Sama Vritti Pranayama, meaning it involves alternate nostril breathing but with an equal number of counts for all four phases of the breath cycle: inhalation, holding the breath, exhalation, and suspending the breath.


Its core purpose, however, is to slow down our breath rate, deepen all phases of the breath cycle while, and create a steady breathing rhythm. By achieving this synchrony, Sukha Pranayama reduces stress levels, relieves anxiety, and eases hyperarousal, restlessness, and agitation.


In some ways, Sukha Pranayama is comparable to tactical breathing, as it reduces the adrenaline surge experienced during or after challenging tasks. It can also serve as a yoga-based equivalent of Box Breathing to regain control over the mind and body within a few minutes.


How to Practice Sukha Purvaka Pranayama: Step by Step


Before learning this technique, acquaint yourself with Vishnu Mudra, a yoga hand gesture used to block the nostrils and manipulate airflow during practice. It involves folding the right hand's index and middle fingers into the palm while keeping the other fingers extended. If you are unfamiliar with this gesture, you can learn more about it in Prana Sutra's Vishnu Mudra guide.


That being said, here are the steps to perform one cycle of Sukha Pranayama:

  1. Left-in: Block the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril to a count of four.

  2. Retain: Now block the left nostril and hold the breath for four counts.

  3. Right-out: Unblock the right nostril and exhale through it for four counts.

  4. Retain: Block the right nostril again and hold the breath for four counts.

  5. Right-in: Unblock the right nostril and inhale deeply for four counts.

  6. Retain: Block the right nostril again and hold the breath as before.

  7. Left-out: Unblock the left nostril and exhale through it for four counts.

  8. Retain: Block the left nostril and hold the breath as before for four counts.

  9. Repeat: This completes one cycle of Sukha Purvaka. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

  10. Rest: Relax in Corpse Pose for five minutes after you conclude your practice.

We have used a count of four as an example. You can modify it to any number and pace that suits you. However, ensure that the intensity and duration across all phases are consistent. If you use a count of six for inhalation, use the exact count for breath retention and exhalation.


Practice Tips from Yoga Experts


As mentioned earlier, this pranayama has many modern adaptations, but here are some considerations if you want to practice Sukha Purvaka as per the yogic tradition:

  • Posture: Select a comfortable seated yoga posture, such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose), Siddhasana (Adept Pose), or Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

  • Time: You can perform it any time, but it is best done on an empty stomach.

  • Location: Find a quiet, distraction-free, and well-ventilated space for your practice.

  • Recommended Mudras: Position your right hand in Vishnu Mudra and rest your left hand on your left thigh. Optionally, you can use Chin Mudra with your left hand.

  • Gaze: Keep your eyes closed or lower them slightly and soften your gaze.

  • Intention: As the objective of this pranayama is to create ease in both mind and body, set an intention to experience gratitude and acceptance during your practice.

  • Awareness: As you perform Sukha breathing, sync your attention with your breath. You can also silently chant a soothing mantra like “So-hum” or “Om” to deepen your awareness.

  • Duration: Beginners should start with 20 cycles of Sukha Purvaka Pranayama in the morning and evening, gradually progressing to 50 cycles per session.

Pro-tip: Beginners generally start by inhaling and exhaling for an equal number of counts, then add internal breath retention (antara kumbhaka) to achieve a 1:1:1:0 ratio. Once you are comfortable with the three phases, gradually introduce external breath retention.

Sukha Purvaka Pranayama Benefits


Here are the benefits of Sukha Purvaka Pranayama, according to yoga sources:

  1. Sukha Purvaka Pranayama cleanses the energy pathways of the subtle energy systems.

  2. It induces a feeling of lightness (Laghima) in the mind and body.

  3. Regular practice can improve lung function and breathing efficiency.

  4. Sukha Purvaka Pranayama also increases appetite and strengthens the digestive fire.

  5. It anchors you to the present and releases negative thoughts and emotions.

  6. By balancing Ida and Pingala Nadis it awakens the dormant Kundalini energy.

  7. It may help lower heart rate and alleviate the symptoms of high blood pressure.

  8. It also helps maintain good health and enhance overall well-being.

Safety and Precautions


While Sukha Purvaka Pranayama has numerous benefits, knowing its contraindications is equally essential. While this technique is safe for most healthy individuals, it should be avoided in the following conditions and situations:

  1. Respiratory Issues: Blocked nose, chest congestion, sinus issues, and seasonal allergies can hamper the breath, making it difficult to practice this technique.

  2. Pregnancy: Due to the delicate nature of pregnancy and the potential effects of breath retention, pregnant women should consult a prenatal yoga expert for guidance.

  3. Lung Disease: People with respiratory ailments and lung disease should avoid Sukha Purvaka Pranayama unless it is deemed safe by a qualified respiratory therapist.

  4. Cardiovascular Issues: It's best to consult a physician before attempting this pranayama if you have heart-related problems or uncontrolled blood pressure.

  5. Anxiety or Panic Disorders: In rare cases, holding your breath can trigger anxiety or panic disorders, so caution is advised for those prone to it.

Skipping Sukha Pranayama is advisable if you have medical conditions aggravated by breath retention. If you are unsure of your health status, consult your doctor for personalized guidance.


FAQ

Is Sukha Purvaka pranayama suitable for yoga beginners?

Is Sukha pranayama safe to practice during pregnancy?

Can I skip the breath retention component of Sukha pranayama?

Can Sukha Purvaka pranayama help with high blood pressure?

Editor’s Note: Feel free to contact us on Instagram with your feedback or queries about this practice. We'll include your questions in our FAQ section if they can benefit future readers.

Wrapping Up


This guide to Sukha Pranayama concludes our five-part “Preparation for Pranayama” series. Readers who have incorporated these techniques into their yoga practice can progress to our next undertaking, where we introduce you to three beginner-level pranayama practices: Three-part Breath (Dirgha), Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti), and Ocean Breathing (Ujjayi).

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