Pranayama – the art of controlling the breath

Breathing is the very essence of life. Deep, calm breathing can influence our mind and on the other hand, when we are stressed, our mind and thought can affect our breathing to be faster.
Every yoga class starts with focusing on the breath. It can be deep breaths or breathing practice.

Prana = vital life force, Yama = to gain control

Pranayama is a set of practices to control the ‘Prana’ within your body through breathing techniques.
pranayama refers to breathing exercises that were developed by ancient yogis for purification, mental focus, and healing. The goal of pranayama is to strengthen the connection between your body and mind.

Breathing properly has physical benefits as well as mental and emotional benefits. The benefits to practice pranayama include:

  • Decreases stress
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Improve immune system
  • Increases mindfulness, concentration, and focus
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Improves lung function
  • Enhances cognitive performance
  • Increase energy level

Types of breathing in yoga:

  • Natural Breathing
  • Basic Abdominal breathing
  • Thoracic breathing
  • Clavicular breathing
  • Yogic breathing
  • Deep breathing with ratios
  • Fast breathing
  • Viloma – Interrupted Breathing
  • AnulomVilom – Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Cooling Breath – Sheetali, Sitkari, Kaki mudra
  • Ujjayi – Victorious Breath
  • Bhramari – Humming Bee Breath
  • Bhastrika – Bellow’s Breath
  • Surya Bhedan – Right Nostril Breathing

Every type has its specific benefit. 

Many researchers studied the effect of breathing on the body. I focus on two of them:

  1. The connection between lung function and pranayam:
    As I used to suffer from asthma and allergies, especially dust allergy, it was very interesting to find research websites showing how practicing pranayama can affect lung function and reduces the symptom of allergies and asthma.
    The study group consisted of 50 young adults (26 males and 24 females) who had a history of allergic disorder, smoking, asthma, etc. The study group was motivated to undergo Pranayama training for 1 hour daily, for 6 days a week. Their lung function was recorded at the beginning of the research and after 6 weeks. The results showed a very significant increase in the study group’s lung function. The results show that pranayama can be used as a lung-strengthening tool to treat many lung diseases like asthma, allergic bronchitis, and more (“The Short Term Effect of Pranayama on the Lung Parameters”, 2019).
  1. The connection between sleeping and pranayama:
    Another interesting research studies the connection between sleep and practicing pranayama.
    40 patients were selected with moderate obstructive sleep apnea. They were separated into two groups: the first group practiced pranayama and the second group was the control group. The results showed that patients who practiced pranayama had a significant decrease in neck circumference, snoring frequency, daytime sleepiness, and improved sleep quality (“Effect of oropharyngeal exercises and Pranayama on snoring, daytime sleepiness and quality of sleep in patients with moderate obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, 2019).

It is best to learn pranayama from an experienced yoga teacher who can provide detailed and individual instruction and helpful advice.