Pranayama is probably the most popular breathing exercises in yoga. It has been mentioned in ancient texts like ‘Bhagavad Gita’ and ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. Modern yoga has incorporated it into movements between the asanas.
The term 'pranayama' means the suspension of breath. The system of breath control involves three steps - inhale, retain, and exhale. Yoga practitioners define it as the expansion of individual energy into cosmic energy.
There are several types of pranayama meant to address different problems. Some of the popular breathing techniques are anuloma-viloma (alternate nostril breathing), Suryan Bhedan pranayama (right nostril breathing), quiet breathing, deep breathing, fast breathing, and ujjayi pranayama.
They are simple and easy to perform. They also come with a bunch of benefits to your physical and mental health. Here are some of the benefits of pranayama.
A lot of people struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Even though they have a predisposition to these mental health issues, the impacts of the environment play a crucial role in setting it off. In most cases, people are burnt out due to work or family issues. The only way to dodge this issue is to keep your mind healthy. You need to give your brain some alone time. In other words, give yourself a break. Pranayama is the perfect way to do that. Helping to cope with depression and anxiety is one of the top benefits of pranayama. Regular practice will make your mind stronger and more efficient which makes you less prone to burnout.
Mindfulness is the state of being aware of your surroundings. It is paying attention to the smaller details of life. It has been proven to bring improvements to your cognition. It is a form of meditation that helps you focus on the present. Mindfulness has great benefits to memory, learning, and problem-solving skills among others. It is a process of you learning more about life to be able to be more capable of making the best of it. It has many health benefits like reducing chronic pain, regulating blood pressure, and enhancing sleep quality. As wonderful it is, mindfulness is not easy to achieve. Practising pranayama will bring you a step closer to mindfulness. It is one of the bonus benefits of pranayama.
In pranayama, you skilful inhale, retain, and exhale air. The name 'pranayama' is connected to the life force or energy that passes through the human body. This energy is a link between body and mind. Anything that is negative including stress, pollution, or sleeplessness will disrupt this energy flow of the body. The breathing techniques positively affects the body and mind by changing the rhythm of our breath. Pranayama smoothes over the path of energy. When the energy in the body is balanced, the body will be much more comfortable in its natural rhythm.
When pranayama is combined with yoga, it enhances blood circulation in the best way possible. A lot of people with sedentary lifestyle experience body pain due to lack of blood supply to muscles. Yoga combined with pranayama will bring an instant change in the problem. Pranayama will increase the amount of oxygen you inhale. This will supply more oxygen to the blood which will allow the vitals organs and cells to breath more. This will rejuvenate the body as the extra oxygen supply will enhance cellular repair. It will help the body to heal faster from all kinds of damages.
Bhastrika is a form of pranayama in which inhalation and exhalation are forced. Bhastrika is known as 'breath of fire'. In this form of pranayama, you are inhaling a lot more air than you usually do. This will give strength to the lungs. Humans only use 10% of the lungs' capacity. Bhastrika will train the lungs to use more of it by supplying more oxygen. It will help with respiratory diseases, allergies, and the common cold. Regular practice of Bhastrika will strengthen the immune system as well. Some of the other pranayama to improve respiration are anulom vilom, nadi shodhan, kapalbhati, and savasana. It is one of the evident benefits of pranayama.
The autonomic functions of the body include everything that is not consciously controlled by you. These are vital for the survival of the human body. Everything from heart rate, digestion, respiration, pupillary response, sexual arousal, and urination falls under autonomic functions. They are controlled by the autonomic nervous system regulated by the hypothalamus. Practising pranayama regularly is great for the health of hypothalamus which will give you optimum control over the autonomic functions. This will be an asset as you get older.
Your abdomen is greatly involved in the process of breathing. When you practise Bhastrika, the stomach muscles are working harder and it will help in burning belly fat. It is one of the visible benefits of pranayama. Kapalbhati is another pranayama that can put abdominal muscles to work. All forms of pranayama can aid in shedding unhealthy fat because they are boosting your metabolic rate. Bharmari is especially good at balancing hormone secretion and improve metabolism. Make sure your posture is correct while doing pranayama. Keep your spine and neck erect. The shoulder should not be in anything close to slouching and must be kept wide open. If you slouch, it is restricting the lungs.
Your brain is always thinking. It is listening to the sound of birds or thinking about what to eat or planning a vacation. Even when you are resting, your brain is super active. Even those who are not experiencing anxiety or stress or depression can use a break. However, it is easier said than done. Most people find mediation tough because they cannot stop thinking or get the brain to stop listening. Pranayama is a step in that direction. You can focus on your breath and shut the rest of the world out. This is one of the instant benefits of pranayama. You will experience the difference right from the start.