In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control, which translates to “control of life energy”. As the name suggests, practicing pranayama technique helps us to achieve tranquillity, as well as bringing us therapeutic effects including reducing stress, aiding digestion, improving sleep, etc.
Breathing is a natural thing to most of us in life – sometimes so spontaneous that we might neglect the process that is happening every moment. However in yoga, the focus on breathing technique (i.e., pranayama) brings back our attention to the power of breathing, and mastering the techniques undoubtedly benefits our health both physically and mentally.
Here introducing 2 common pranayama techniques and their respective benefits:
- Nadhi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
Nadhi Sodhana is a very relaxed, balancing breathing technique. By breathing through alternate nostrils deeply, the technique helps our body with below key benefits:
- Regulating the nervous system – when stress strikes our nervous system, our body reacts with a series of effects, including faster heart beats, quickened breathing, etc. While we intentionally control our breathing in this pranayama, it engages our rest and repair state, and allows body to start the relaxation response. With regular practice, Nadhi Sodhana helps to bring better balance to our nervous system over time.
- Lowering blood pressure according to research
- Improving breathing – as Nadhi Sodhana involves deep breathing, it helps to strengthen the lung muscles and enable higher volumes of breathing
2. Kapalabhati (skull-shining breathing)
With its forceful exhalation, Kapalabhati is known as a more advanced and intense breathing technique. It is also know for numerous physical and mental benefits including below:
- Reducing CO2 level in blood
- Assisting blood circulation and destressing mind
- Removing toxins from body
- Increasing metabolic rate which can support weight loss
- Nunez, K. (2020, May 15). Pranayama benefits for physical and emotional health. Healthline. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pranayama-benefits#whats-pranayama
- Hodge, A., Allison Hodge Allison Hodge is a vinyasa yoga instructor and certified holistic health coach. She is also a co-founder of Flex Hour Yoga, & Hodge, A. (2018, November 16). The power of breathing: 4 pranayama techniques worth practicing. One Medical. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.onemedical.com/blog/healthy-living/breathing-pranayama-techniques/
- WebMD. (n.d.). Nadi Shodhana: Alternate-nostril breathing benefits and risks. WebMD. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-to-know-about-alternate-nostril-breathing#:~:text=With%20regular%20practice%2C%20alternate%2Dnostril,It%20improves%20breathing.
- Here’s why you need to practice Kapalbhati for the sake of your physical and mental health. Healthshots. (2021, May 22). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.healthshots.com/fitness/staying-fit/kapalbhati-pranayam-how-to-do-it-and-benefits/#:~:text=It%20improves%20digestive%20issues%20and,helping%20to%20uplift%20your%20mood.