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'Pranayama' is an important practice in yoga. It is an excellent method discovered by Indian sages. Today, the entire world is embracing this superior practice for health. It is an energy-enhancing exercise based on breath. What is Pranayama? According to Patanjali's Yoga, how many types of Pranayama are there? This article will provide a detailed description of it.

Read this article in Hindi - प्राणायाम के प्रकार।

Table of contents :-

• Definition of Pranayama.
• Three types of Pranayama.
• Fourth type of Pranayama.

types of pranayama

Types of Pranayama in Yoga-Sutra:

Maharishi Patanjali defined the entire Yoga through the "Sutras". In the second chapter of Patanjali Yoga-Sutra, he elaborated on Pranayama. The '49th Sutra' explains "What is Pranayama?" while the 50th and 51st Sutras define the types of Pranayama. Let's understand them in detail.

The definition of Pranayama in Patanjali's Yoga:

To define Pranayama, Maharishi Patanjali provides a sutra:

"तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गतिविच्छेद: प्राणायाम:।।2.49।।"

"Tasmin sati shwasa-prashwasyor gati vichchedah pranayamah." (Yoga Sutra 2.49)

The meaning of the sutra is: 
(After practicing asana), Pranayama is the regulation of the breath by controlling the inhalation and exhalation according to one's capacity.

According to this sutra, Pranayama has three stages :-

1. Shwasa: Inhaling the breath through the nostrils.

2. Prashwasa: Exhaling the breath.

3. Kumbhaka: Retaining the breath either inside or outside.

These three stages are essential in Pranayama. The Yoga-Sutra further describe four types of Pranayama.

For types of Pranayama:

According to Patanjali, there are four types of pranayama. In 2.50th  'sutra,' three types of pranayama are mentioned :-

"बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्तम्भवृत्तिर्देशकालसंख्याभि: परिदृष्टो दीर्घसूक्ष्म:।।2.50।।

"Bahya abhyantara stambha vr̥tti deśa kāla saṁkhyābhi paridṛṣṭo dīrgha-śūkṣmaḥ (yogsutra 2.50)."
Meaning of this sutra :- "There are three types of Pranayama - Bahya Vritti, Abhyantara Vritti, and Stambha Vritti. By practicing these three types of Pranayama, focusing on the state of breath in the body, the timing of breath, and counting the breaths, one can make their breath long and subtle."

This sutra elaborates on the three types of Pranayama as outlined by Maharshi Patanjali.

1. Bahya Vritti Pranayama: Holding the breath in an empty exhalation state after completely expelling the breath is called Bahya Vritti Pranayama.

2. Abhyantara Vritti Pranayama: Holding the breath in an inhalation state after filling it inside is known as Abhyantara Vritti Pranayama.

3. Stambha Vritti Pranayama: Blocking the breath in a steady state is called Stambha Vritti Pranayama.

Fourth Pranayama (Chaturtha Pranayama):

In the next sutra, Sage Patanjali describes the "fourth Pranayama":

"बाह्याभ्यान्ततरविषयाक्षेपी चतुर्थ:।।2.51।।

"Bahya abhyantara vishyakshepi chaturtha (yoga sutra 2.51)

Meaning of this Sutra:- "Fourth Pranayama" is the practice opposite to the desire of inhalation and exhalation.

This pranayama (fourth pranayama) is distinct from the topics of 'Bahyavritti' and 'Abhyantara vritti' explained earlier. Let's understand it in more detail :-

When we hold our breath in the Bahya-Kumbhaka (external retention) state after exhaling, there is a desire to inhale after a while. If we inhale, it becomes the Bahyavritti Pranayama. Conversely, if we push the breath slightly outward, it is called "fourth-pranayama."

In this way, when we pause in the state of Antarik-Kumbhaka (internal retention) after fully inhaling, there is a desire to exhale after a while. If, in accordance with that desire, we release the breath outward, it becomes "Abhyantra Pranayama." Conversely, if the breath is slightly drawn inward, it is known as "fourth pranayama."

Caution :- This practice (fourth-pranayama) is only for experienced practitioners. Beginners should not attempt this. New practitioners should focus only on simple Pranayama


Patanjali Yoga describes four types of pranayama. The first three are recommended for regular practitioners, while the fourth is for experienced ones.


Practice pranayama according to your respiratory capacity. The described practice is only for experienced yoga practitioners. Beginners  should follow this practice under the guidance of an experienced instructor. Forceful practice can be harmful.

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