February 25, 2018

Meaning of Pranayama (regulation of breath): How to do it and its benefit

The act of breathing is an automatic mechanism of the human body. This is the most fundamental truth that we experience every second. Most people take it for granted and do it without really experiencing it. All form of meditation in Eastern culture stems from one concept - paying a profound attention to your breath.

Controlling the process of breathing consciously can lead to a number of benefits to the body and mind. For example, Athletes - The way they control their breathing enables them to increase the lung capacity, thus providing them with that extra boost of energy during intense physical effort. 

Meaning of Pranayama

The word Pranayama is made of two words - "Prana" and "Ayama". “Prana” means breath of life force, the vital energy of the body. “Ayama” means controlling the breath in such a way that benefits the body and mind.

"Pranayama" is the Yoga's art of controlling the breath, up to the point that you turn every breath into immense energy generating function within your body. It is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of Yoga.

Inhale. Let the oxygen flow in and occupy every inch of your chest. Relax. Exhale and release all your worries and stress.

How to do Pranayama

Breathing consciously with intentional awareness is very different from just breathing. "Pranayama" techniques will teach you how to fully connect your thoughts with breathing in order to induce a sense of well-being and relief. There are several types of Pranayama, according to various types of breathing. Some examples are: 

  • Alternate nostril breathing (Anuloma & Viloma Pranayama): Even Hillary Alternate Nostril breathing Clinton said in an interview with CNN about how this benefited her! See link here. It can be done in two steps. The first step is 'paused inhalation' and the second step is called 'paused exhalation. It can be done as below:
Step One: Paused Inhalation
    • Sit in a comfortable position on your mat and relax. 
    • Hold one nostril and inhale for four to five seconds to fill your chest and pause.
    • Hold both nostril now and hold your breath for one or two seconds.
Step Two: Paused Exhalation
    • Hold the nostril through which you were inhaling and exhale through other nostril. Release all air as much as you can.
    • Repeat this process 10 to 15 times with alternating the nostrils.

Benefit of Pranayama

Pranayama is an excellent method to control the daily stress. For example, when you are stressed, the body reacts to danger by increasing the breathing ratio. The breathing becomes accelerated and shallow, one of the most common signs that you are anxious. The blood pressure increases and hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are produced.

Pranayama can help you reverse the symptoms by means of deep breathing. The nervous system is activated when you breathe slowly, deeply and helps you slow down the heart rate, thus generating an instant calming effect. Diffusing emotional energy is another benefit of Pranayama.

Learn from a Yoga Teacher

Breathing exercises featured by the Pranayama require a keen understanding of the breathing process and should ideally be supervised (in case you are a beginner yogi). Pranayama practice will enable you effectively control the pranas, resulting in a perfect balance between mind and body.

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