Pranayama is a part of Yoga system that teaches you the art of extending your breath in many different ways.
When practicing pranayama, the breath should be skillfully inhaled, exhaled and retained. It teaches you to change the depth, rate and pattern of breathing.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word which literally translates into “extension of the prana or breath”. ‘Prana’ means life-force and it is the life-force or vital energy that pervades the body. Prana is the link between mind and consciousness. The physical manifestation of “prana’ is breath and ”ayama” means to extent or draw out the breath.
Why Breathing Is So Important For The Body And Mind
Every single thought you have has an effect on the rhythm of your breath. When you're happy, breathing is rhythmic. When you're stressed, breathing is irregular and interrupted. Mastering the art of breathing is a crucial step towards self-healing and survival.
Breathing is vital for our survival because it's the only way we can send oxygen inside our body, and into our organs. We can live for months without consuming food and days without water, but we can only survive a few minutes without breathing. When you learn the breathing techniques that Pranayama teaches - you will notice a positive effect on your actions and thoughts.
Benefits of Pranayama:
Pranayama can be a great way to start your day. Early morning is the best time to practice pranayama, especially outside, where you can find fresh air. It is recommended to do these breathing exercises on an empty stomach.
- Certain pranayama are excellent for weight loss.
- Regular pranayama enhances one's perception of life.
- Practicing pranayama everyday can assist in steady mind, strong will power and sound judgement.
- It reduces the signs of oxidative stress in the body.
- It helps relieve the symptoms of asthma.
- Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders.
- Pranayama improves the autonomic functions.
The 3 Types Of Pranayama
The Natural Breath: (Watch this video for a demonstration)
Simply breathing and noticing the natural breath precedes any pranayama, and is a necessary step for ALL practitioners.
The breath is the only voluntary AND involuntary body function in the body that reveals your unconscious emotional, mental and physical patterns. We can only heal and transform these patterns once we choose to recognize them. Otherwise, your breath will continue telling your story whether you choose to listen or not.
Once you realize that you can influence the depth, rhythm and sound of the breath, you will understand the power of pranayama. Try this right now:
- Breathe in, and notice thoughts as they arise.
- Breathe out, and notice thoughts as they dissipate.
- Give yourself permission to release your attachment to your thoughts during this time of meditation.
- Return to your life with a calm and clear open mind.
Sahita Pranayama - (Watch this video for a demonstration)
Practicing this method increases mental and physical endurance, and places the emphasis on stillness—as long as there is no attempt to hold the breath with force and create even more anxiety.
Here’s how to gain the greatest benefit without causing more stress:
- Inhale with a natural and focused breath and pause
- Hold the breath, not to the point of discomfort or struggle, but long enough to settle into the stillness
- Exhale the natural breath and pause
- Hold the breath, notice the stillness
- Repeat for up to 5 minutes and take Savasana
Bhramari - (Watch this video for a demonstration)
You may want to reserve this calming pranayama when you have a few moments alone because this can get pretty loud!
You will achieve the greatest benefit when you create the most audible sound, because the vibrations send a soothing wave throughout the nervous system—creating a homeostasis of mind and body.
- Inhale completely through both nostrils
- Exhale, producing the buzzing sound of the bee
- Repeat up to 5 minutes and take rest in Savasana
Who Should Not Be Doing Pranayama?
Pranayama should be practiced with care. It is advised to begin advanced pranayama with a teacher’s guidance. It is not recommended for:
- Anyone with any form of heart condition, particularly if they have a recent history of heart attack.
- Anyone who has a fever, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
- Anyone going through radiation or chemotherapy.
- During menstruation and pregnancy
- Anyone going through psychological condition, sadness, grief, trauma, anger, anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings.