BEGINNERS GUIDE TO PRANAYAMA
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is one of the main component of Yoga. It is the breathing technique used to link the Body, Emotions, Mind and Spirit and is split in to four phases:
- PURAKA is the inhalation.
- KUMBHAKA is when the breath is held in.
- RECHAKA is the exhalation.
- SHUNYAKA is when the breath is held out.
When these four phases are used together in certain patterns they can greatly impact you, your health and your wellbeing.
There are many physical and spiritual benefits from Pranayama and here I will go through five of the main physical benefits you can enjoy from practising Pranayama.
- Decreases Stress Levels. Studies have shown that practising Pranayama will reduce stress levels in adults and can be used prior to exams and/or other stressful situations being faced. This can be accounted to increased oxygen uptake to the brain and vital organs.
- Reduces High Blood Pressure. Studies were done with 12 people all with mild HBP, 6 of them practised Pranayama and 6 of them took meds for of a duration of 6 weeks. The 6 that practised Pranayama experienced a lower blood pressure at the end thanks to the calming effects it has on our bodies.
- Improves Sleep Quality. Certain types of Pranayama (Bharamri for example) done for 5mins will slow down breathing and heart rate prior to sleep helping improve the quality and additional studies have shown pranayama can reduce snoring to improving sleep quality for your spouse (win win).
- Improves Lung Function. Such controlled breathing techniques have been shown to increase the strength of your lungs along with helping issues such as asthma and bronchitis.
- Increases Mindfulness. The calming benefits of pranayama and the fact you are focusing on the moment and the breathing have shown increased mindfulness. Also it has been seen that practitioners are able to regulate emotions more effectively than none practitioners.
THREE EXAMPLES OF PRANAYAMA YOU CAN TRY AT HOME
- Bhramri Pranayama: This technique is in the seated position using your thumbs to plug your ears and your fingers to cover your eyes. Take a deep breath in and exhale with the chant of OM. Do this for 5 minutes before bed to help with your sleep quality.
- Kapalabhati Pranayama: Also done in the seated position with hands relaxed on the knee. Start with 2-3 normal breaths . Then take a deep breath in and exhale in 20 pulses through the nose while sucking your belly in on each pulse. Studies have shown that this helps with abdominal strength and can take you into mystical states.
- Dirga Pranayama: This technique is performed lying in the supine position (on your back) and is super simple. Start by inhaling (Puraka) and filling your belly so it rises, hold (Kumbhaka) for a few seconds then exhale (Rechaka) till all the air is gone by drawing the belly in. This technique has shown to help Anxiety, stress and is also beneficial to helping the parasympathetic nervous system to aid digestion.