Before learning about Pranayama, I used to think “a breath is a breath” and did not think that the different ways someone breathe could result in such enormous benefits.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that means “extended life force”. The word is made up of two words, ‘Prana’ (which means life force/ vitality ) and ‘Ayama’ (which means expansion or extension). In class, we focus on two breathing techniques designed to extend the life force we already have, and the importance of doing these exercises correctly.
The first technique is called the Kaparavati Breath. Kapal means skull and Bhati means polish/ shine. Kapalabhati, as the name suggests, is a way to “squeak clean” the head and rid it of toxins. The other technique is called Nadi Shodan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing. Here, close one nostril at a time while inhaling and exhaling. I learned how to hold my fingers and how to breathe properly using this technique.
BENEFITS OF PRANAYAMA
Although the ultimate goal of pranayama is to enter a higher state of consciousness, there are many immediate benefits to it too. If you can control your breathing, you can get oxygen to keep your body healthy, and you can influence your emotional and mental state through meditative breathing techniques. These breathing exercises also help calm and focus the mind, bringing the mind back to the present moment. Through Pranayama, you can also release accumulated stress toxins, bringing clarity to the mind and energy to the body. All of these benefits can be achieved in just a few minutes of practice! Another underlying benefit of pranayama is that it brings attention to the breath. As someone who suffers from bouts of anxiety, in intense situations my chest can tighten and breathing can get shallow. Thankfully, now I am not only more aware of my breathing, but I have the opportunity to improve my breathing and my health.
APPLICATION IN DAILY LIFE
Pranayama is easy to apply in your daily life as it does not require a yoga mat or equipment. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can practice anywhere, anytime, whether you’re standing in a queue, running between jobs, or in a meeting room. Nose, lungs, diaphragm, fingers – everything you need is right there with you.
Truly, Pranayama shows that not only can one breathe in different ways, but there is great benefit in doing so.