PRANAYAMA – The Art of Yoga Breathing
Yoga breathing,or Pranayama,is the science of Prana (vital energy) which is the source of all life in all living beings in this universe. It consists of a series of breathing exercises especially intended to meet the body’s needs and keep it in vibrant health. Other than for increasing vital reserves in the body, Pranayamas are mainly practiced for stilling the mind and thought process – as the prana and thoughts are no different. According to Yogis, we can control the thoughts by the breath, and breathing is a tool to harmonize the body, mind and consciousness.
Mechanics of Breathing
In our respiration process, we inhale oxygen into our bodies. The air goes through our body systems as a form of energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and throw away all toxic wastes from our bodies. However, our lives are full of stress and our minds are a mad house of non-stop thoughts which stop us from breathing properly. Eventually our breath becomes fast and shallow – thereby using only a fraction of our lung capacity. Thus, the lack of oxygen and not being able to completely rid our bodies of the carbon dioxide, may lead to health problems. Heart disease, sleep disorders and fatigue are just a few of the effects of a lack of oxygen and prana to the body. The mind becomes like a restless monkey with non-stop thoughts complicating our lives. We can enhance the oxygen intake and also exhale carbon dioxide fully by practicing deep and systematic breathing through Pranayama, which can energize the body with fresh prana. Vitality, calmness, alertness of mind, concentration and glow of the skin are some of the many benefits of Pranayama.
Benefits of Pranayama
Breathing is a normal part of our lives, though we fail to pay attention to it. It is a voluntary function of the body that we perform without thinking. Why then do we have to learn yoga breathing? Here are some reasons why Pranayama is important:
- Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We have become accustomed to breathing from our chests, using only a fraction of our lungs, not knowing that this is an unhealthy and unnatural way of inhaling and may lead to complications. With yoga breathing, we increase the capacity of our lungs, bringing more oxygen supply to the body to function well. We learn how to breathe slowly and deeply – the right way.
- Pranayama reduces the toxins and body wastes from within our bodies – thereby preventing diseases at their roots.
- Pranayama helps digestion. With the proper way of breathing, one’s metabolism and health condition will start to improve and constipation is relieved.
- Pranayama develops our concentration and focus of mind. It can counteract the stress and relax the body much deeper than sleeping.
- Pranayama offers a better self-control. Through concentration, one can better handle one’s temper and reactions. The mind can functions clearly, avoiding arguments and wrong decisions. Moreover, self-control also involves control over one’s physical body.
- Pranayama leads us on a spiritual journey with a relaxed body and mind.
When the pranayamas are forced and done without proper preparation, it may have dangerous effects on the nervous system. Some of the advanced Pranayama should be learnt and practiced under the guidance of an expert.