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Kriya, Full Yogic Breathing & Pranayama

Yogic science outlines 3 differnt types of breathing exercises or techniques which affects our physical and mental states.

  • Kriyas

  • Yogic Breathing

  • Pranayama


Kriyas are cleansing practices. In the sense, we practice kriyas daily, like bathing, washing, brushing, etc. are all Kriyas. But yogic Kriyas refer to special yoga techniques developed by yogis, meant to clean internal organs.

With reference to breathing, kriyas refer to breath cleansing practices that are used to clear the upper and lower respiratory tract. They serve as preparatory practices for pranayama.

Few breath cleansing techniques include :

  • Kapalabhati Kriya (cleansing by forceful exhalations and passive inhalations)

  • Anunasika Breathing (cleansing by inhalation and exhalation)

  • Mukha Dhouti (cleansing through a single blast breath)

  • Mukha Bastrika (cleansing through hyperventilation)

  • Viparitakarni Kriya (cleansing in inverted posture)


Our right lung has 3 lobes and the left lung has 2 lobes. Full yogic breathing involves 4 patterns of breathing which helps to correct our wrong breathing pattern and increase the capacity of our lungs.

These serve as a preparatory breathing practice for pranayama. The first 3 patterns are referred to as Vibhagiya savasana (sectional breathing) and the 4th one is referred to as full yogic breathing.

Location of lobes of our lungs
Sectional Breathing

The four patterns are as follows :

  1. Abdominal (diaphragmatic) Breathing (ADAMA) - Focus on the abdomen

  2. Thoracic (intercoastal) Breathing (MADYAMA) - Focus on chest cage

  3. UpperLobar (clavicular) Breathing (ADYA) - Focus on shoulders and collar bones

  4. Full Yogic Breathing


Breathing is such a crucial functioning that is happening throughout our lifetime. It happens involuntary and is even fainter than our heartbeat. Yoga refers to breathing as "pranayama." In Sanskrit, "prana" refers to the “universal life force” and "Yama" means to “control” or “take charge of.”

In the science of yoga, prana does not denote breath, air, or oxygen. Precisely and scientifically speaking, prana means the original life force. There are five major currents of vital force that run through our body and organize our physiological functioning. "Pancha Vayu Model" explains the 5 major currents' vital life force. Pranayama is a method that works in the dimension of prana and allows us to take charge of the panch vayus or the 5 currents of prana. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve a healthy body and mind.

Watch the video to understand more about Prana.

Nadi Shuddi, Brahmari, Ujjai Shitli & Shithkari, etc are a few examples of pranayama practice.

Difference between Kriyas , Full Yogic Breathing and Pranayama



Full Yogic Breathing


Breathing Rate

About 120/mt. Washing away CO. and increased oxygen concentration

About 15/mt. Full utilization of all muscles. Normal breathing

Less than 5 breathes/mt

Respiratory muscles

Exercised briskly

Complete movement of all groups of muscles

Controlled, slow movement


Greatly increased, greater concentrationo of oxygen in blood streams

Slightly increased, More O2 can be supplied to tissues

Less demand than normal

Nervous Systme

Quick repetitive nerve impulses, stimulating effect

Normalized nerve impulses

Reduced excitability of nerve impulses

Brain Cells

Activated, greater alertness

Harmonious functioning

Deep rest to the brain cells. Lesser O2 demand by brain cells

Metabolic Rate

Increased greatly. Energy expendituer is more

Normalized. Proper utilization of energy.

Decreased considerbly. Energy conserved, dormant energies are evoked

Overall Personality

Shatters "Tamas", laziness gone, man becomes active

Channelises the "Rajas", unnecessary wastage of energy is cut.

Becomes healthier

Mind moves towards silence.

Potential capabilities are evoked.

Greater efficienty.

Fresh, relaxed and dynamic


Kriyas lshould be avoided by people with High BP, Heart disease, Vertigo, Epilepsy, Hernia, Gastric ulcer, Slip disc, Spondylosis, Women during menses and advanced stage of Pregnancy.

No Limitations

No limitations except those with cold and cough should avoid Shithali and Sthithkari Pranayams.

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