What is Pranayama?

In yoga Prana means ‘Breath’ or the ‘Vital Energy’ & Ayama means ‘Control’. So Pranayama means ‘Breath Control’. The breath gives oxygen, the vital life giving energy.

Pranayama is rhythmic breathing, controlling the process of inhalation, exhalation and retention.

The breath is a vital process to each cell in the body & to the performance of the brain. A lot of us do not breathe correctly, using only a small proportion of our lung capacity, depriving our bodies of oxygen. Our natural rhythm is also often lost due to stress.

Breath is a connecting factor, linking the body & the mind. Taking conscious control of a usually unconscious process helps us to be more aware of how it affects us & how to use it to influence our health & general state of well being.

As the mind is unruly, jumping from one thought to the next, like an ocean depending on the environment, the conditions, (what’s going on in your life), waves are caused (our reaction to stress). These waves often throw us off balance. But, if we learn to drop down deeper below the waves, within ourselves there is gentle calmness, a stillness that is always present. We can access this calmness by using the breath as a tool.

Breathing techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, they help us to re-establish a relaxed, natural breathing rhythm. They help develop a steady mind & stamina & are also known to improve autonomic functions & to reduce signs of oxidative stress. Regular & continued practice has been reported to extend life and enhance perception while attaining higher states of awareness.

Breathing techniques help us to cultivate mindfulness & awareness of the present moment.

“What man really seeks is not perfection which is in the future, but fulfillment which is ever in the present.” -N. Sri Ram

Example of a simple deep breathing technique:

Sit in a comfortable cross legged position with your back straight. You can also sit on a chair. Place your hands loosely on your knees. Start to focus on your natural breath. Feel it & follow it as it flows through you. Now inhale to the count of 4 seconds, then exhale to the count of 6 seconds. Continue for 10 rounds. After 10 rounds return to your natural breath. Take a moment to notice how you feel. Slowly open your eyes.

  • When practicing, the smoothness of your breath is important. If at some point during practice your breath becomes rough or uneven, or if you start to feel dizzy, stop and relax. Then, slowly allow your breathing to return to its normal pace.
  • The practice area should be a place with fresh, clean air with no smoke or other chemicals, as during pranayama, air is pulled deeper into the lungs. It is also wise to avoid practicing in extremes of temperature.
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