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Effects of Fast and Slow Pranayama on Perceived Stress

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Yoga's millennia-old breathing exercises, known as Pranayamas, are known to induce a meditative state, reduce stress, and increase lung capacity.

Medically reviewed by

Shakti Mishra

Published At October 18, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 3, 2024

What Is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the practice of breath regulation. It is a key component of yoga, a physical and mental wellness exercise. "Prana" means life energy in Sanskrit, and "Yama" means control.

Pranayama is an exercise form that practices breathing and its various patterns. People deliberately inhale, exhale, and hold their breath in a specific order. The goal of Pranayama is to connect the body and mind. It also regulates oxygen in the body while removing toxins. This is intended to provide physiological healing benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Pranayama?

The following are some of the benefits of Pranayama:

1. Decreases stress.

2. Improves sleep quality.

3. Increases mindfulness.

4. Reduces high blood pressure.

5. Improves lung function.

6. Enhances cognitive performance.

What Is Fast and Slow Pranayama?

Fast Pranayama: Fast Pranayama requires increasing the rate of respiration to around 100 breaths per minute. However, the breathing should not be shallow; instead, the inhalation and exhalation should be equally forceful. This entails rapidly moving the diaphragm by moving the abdominal and chest muscles.

  • Kapalabhati Pranayama: The subjects are instructed to sit in Vajrasana and forcefully expel all the air from their lungs while pushing the abdominal diaphragm upwards. Although expulsion is active, inhalation is passive. Subjects must exhale rapidly and inhale passively through both nostrils. The maximum number of rounds per sitting should be one hundred and twenty. It is thought to be an excellent respiratory system rejuvenator because it exercises all expiratory muscles.

  • Bhastrika Pranayama: The emphasis here is on thoracic (rather than abdominal) respiratory action. In this type of Pranayama, people are expected to breathe deeply which is then, followed by a fast expulsion of breath in rapid succession. This is referred to as "bellow" breathing. Each round has ten such "bellows." After a person completes ten exhalations, the last exhalation is continued by the deepest inhalation. Breathing is suspended for as long as it is possible to do so comfortably. Exhaling as deeply as possible is done slowly. This concludes the first round of Bhastrika.

  • Kukkriya Pranayama: The individual must sit in Vajrasana, with both hands on the ground in front, wrists touching knees, and fingers pointing front, to do this dog pant-like breathing technique. The mouth must be wide open, and the tongue should thrust out as far as it could go. They then breathe in and out quickly, their tongue hanging out of their mouth. They need to return to Vajrasana after 10 or 15 rounds. The entire procedure must be repeated three times.

Slow Pranayama: Slow Pranayama requires a steady and deep breathing rate, where the breath is taken, held for a while, and then released respectively.

  • Nadi Shodhana Pranayama: It is an alternate nostril breathing that is slow and regular. One round consists of breathing through one nostril, exhaling through the opposite nostril, then repeating the process through the opposite nostril.

  • Savitri Pranayama: It is a slow, deep, and rhythmic breathing pattern with a 2:1:2:1 ratio between the phases of the respiratory cycle of inspiration (Purak), held-in breath (Kumbhak), expiration (Rechak), and held-out breath (Shunyak). Each lobular section of the lungs is filled, and inspiration and expiration are counted on a six-count, with retained breaths counted on a three-count (6 3 6 3).

  • Pranava Pranayama: Itis slow, deep, and rhythmic breathing in which the emphasis is on making the sounds AAA, UUU, and MMM while breathing out for two to three times the length of the inhaled breath. It is a four-part technique that includes Adham Pranayama (lower chest breathing with the sound of AAA), Madhyam Pranayama (mid-chest breathing with the sound of UUU), Adhyam Pranayama (upper chest breathing with the sound of MMM), and the union of the first three parts completes a cycle of breathing yoga which is known as Mahat Yoga Pranayama with the sounds of AAA, UUU, and MMM.

What Are the Benefits of Pranayama?

Following are some of the benefits of Pranayama:

  1. Fast Pranayama:

Energizes the body.

Regulates the blood flow throughout the body.

Helps in replenishing the oxygen requirement of the body.

2. Slow Pranayama:

Makes the body calm and relaxed.

Enriches with oxygen.

Increases concentration.

How Stress Is Overcome Through Pranayama?

There are various reasons that can cause stress such as work, school, and family. It is important to fight depression because it can be very hard to focus on anything else if one is constantly feeling sad or unhappy. Pranayama is an effective approach to relieve tension and anxiety, both of which are frequently associated with depressive symptoms. If a person suffers from episodes of sadness or experiences feelings of low energy and weariness, it is beneficial to make Pranayama (or whatever breathing exercises) a daily component of one’s self-care regimen.

What Are the Effects of Pranayama on Systemic Diseases?

Eastern civilizations have been revered as a practiced for thousands of years as strong agents for healing, well-being, and attaining levels of higher awareness. Certain Pranayama techniques have been proven in studies to help reduce hypertension symptoms by stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure. When one combines Pranayama and belly breathing, they stimulate the diaphragm, which is a dome-shaped muscle located behind one’s lungs and above digestive and internal organs. The process of breathing in this manner allows the diaphragm to rise and fall, creating a mild massage for the organs.

This same diaphragmatic movement stimulates the movement of lymph, which is a fluid carrying white blood cells. Preliminary research also suggests that incorporating breath retention into practice will boost immune function. Practicing Pranayama can be quite the workout and uses a lot of the lungs, which can increase lung health and capacity. It is also known that Pranayama is effective for asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

How Does Pranayama Affect Sleep?

When practiced routinely and consistently before bed and during the day; slow and deep Pranayama techniques have been demonstrated to improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. Pranayama is a good complement to a yoga nidra (sleep meditation) practice.

The vagus nerve, one of the most important nerves involved in the relaxation response, is stimulated by slow breathing in Pranayama cycles. Increased relaxation response results in increased inner calm and release of hormones that can mitigate the detrimental effects of stress hormones.


Pranayama is an easy and effective practice that alleviates stress. It plays an important and irreplaceable role in yoga and meditation practices. Taking into consideration the stress caused by modern life, one should regularly practice Pranayama as a part of their daily routine. Pranayama is an easy practice that brings well-being physically and mentally.

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Shakti Mishra
Shakti Mishra



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