Most of the time we breath mechanically without consciousness as we watch TV, work on our laptop, or do dishes. We just breath without noticing our respiratory system and because this is simply part of a natural process. Yet do you know that you can enhance your state of body and mind only by controlling your breath? And thus, being fully conscious about your inhalations, exhalations, and the circulation of the air within your respiratory system and your body. This is what Pranayama about.
Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. It is the practice of breath control. The goal of pranayama is to connect your body and mind. It also supplies your body with oxygen while removing toxins and may benefit your health in a variety of different ways.
1. Increase mindfulness: as explained above, the tendency is to breath mechanically without awareness of our inhalations and exhalations. But during pranayama, you need to be fully aware of your breathing actions and how the air circulates within your body. To achieve this, you need to focus on your current breathing actions thus on the current moment, instead of the past or future. This is known as mindfulness.
2. Decrease stress: while breathing in a conscious way, the mind is calmer because the air is circulating in more efficient way within the body to the mind. Therefore, breath control exercises (pranayama) enable to calm down the state of mind and reduce stress.
3. Improve sleep quality: the stress relieving effects of pranayama could also help to enhance the quality of sleep. Indeed, we sleep better when our mind is calmer and relaxed.
4. Improve lung function: as you practice the breath control, via deep inhalations, deep exhalations and sometimes holding breath, this practice is itself an exercise to your lungs. Like any other parts of the body when it is trained it performs well and better. Therefore, via pranayama practice, lungs become healthier with a better functioning.