Fast Pranayama is a controlled breathing technique where you inhale and exhale fast and do not hold breath in the process.
We recommend this practice when your morning or daytime measurement shows that your sympathetic nervous system is not active enough — you lack stress response to gather yourself and start working.
How to do it
You should inhale and exhale fast through your nose, spending about half a second to breathe in and half a second to breathe out. That’s the pace we set in our audio.
Although we provide a 2-minute audio, we recommend shorter breathing sessions for beginners — even a 10-second practice will ramp you up.
And it’s better to start with more or less shallow diaphragmatic breathing (not expanding your stomach), deepening it over time (expanding your stomach).
If you’re not familiar with breathing practices, pay close attention to how your body reacts — if you start feeling faint or unwell, please stop immediately.
After you’ve mastered the standard technique, you might want to try some mindfulness exercises with it:
On inhalation, use self-talk cues you associate with energy going up — something like “charge,” “explode,” “power,” or any other word. Make sure you repeat the cue in sync with your breathing.
During the practice, imagine scenes depicting the creation of energy, such as a moving train, powerful waves or winds, or animals sprinting.
How it works
When doing Fast Pranayama, you intentionally and controllably activate your body’s stress response system and switch to the fight-or-flight mode. This is where the energy comes from.
Fast Pranayama Breathing decreases the high frequency (HF) power, increases the low frequency (LF) power, and raises the LF/HF ratio, indicating the sympathetic arousal. It also increases the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
This practice improves bidirectional communication between the cerebral cortex and the limbic, autonomic, neuroendocrine, emotional, and behavioral activation.
It results in greater arousal, better concentration, and faster responsiveness (shorter auditory and visual reaction times).
The effect of Fast Pranayama Breathing is described in the following scientific works:
In 2013, a group of scientists studied the impact of pranayama practices on healthy people’s cognitive functions. The study included 84 participants aged 18–25. They were given pranayama training three times a week for 12 weeks. Fast Pranayama was reported to improve their ability to concentrate, reduce reaction time, and benefit cognitive functions. For details, see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939514
In 2017, scientists from S-VYASA Yoga University in Bangalore presented a comprehensive overview of 68 studies on pranayama and yogic breathing (all published in English). According to them, most scientific literature points to advantageous effects of pranayama on the neurocognitive, psychophysiological, respiratory, biochemical, and metabolic functions in healthy individuals. It is also found useful in the management of various clinical conditions. For details, see: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0975947617303224
Another interesting point is that professional athletes use fast breathing techniques to facilitate the process of energizing their pre-performance activation level. For details, see: Sport Psychology, edited by Britton W. Brewer. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009