The word ‘Prana’ means breath life force and the word ‘yama’, means control or discipline. The word ayam means ‘expansion’. The goal of Pranayama is to increase the quantum of this life force (prana) so that it can reach out to ‘hidden’ recesses of the brain. This helps in expanding the human faculties and slowing degeneration. General practice refers to a set of breathing techniques used for relaxation, concentration and meditation.
I was dubious about the effects of holding the breath, particularly after exercise, with the body needing oxygen more then ever and was interested to see what the benefits of such a practice are. The evidence suggests benefits of regularly practicing the various breathing techniques include:
Reduced breathing rate: with certain Pranayama you can train yourself to breathe more slowly and more deeply. It is possible to reduce the breathing rate from around 15 breathes per minute to 5-6 breaths per minute. This contributes to:
- Slowing down the heart rate as more oxygen can be pumped even with less breaths
- Reduced wear and tear of internal organs
- Lowering of blood pressure, relaxation of body tensions and quieter nerves
Regularly practicing Pranayama increases life, as longevity is directly linked to breathing rate.
Blood circulation improves as a result of deep breathing via the oxygen absorbed during inhalation and holding. Therefore more oxygen and prana reaches all parts of your body
Gives us a healthy heart, more oxygen in the blood means more oxygen to the muscles of the heart
Enables organs to function more effectively:
- Better functioning of the autonomic system, improves the working of lungs, heart, diaphram, abdomen, intestines, kidneys and pancreas
- Digestive system improves
- Lifts the mood
- All of the bodies organs get more oxygen during Pranayama, toxins are removed from the body and the immune system is strengthened
Better mental health: Pranayama helps to focus the mind and clear negative emotions such as anger, depression, greed, arrogance etc.
Pranayama also helps to control the fluctuations of the mind , regular practice will create a feeling of lightness and inner peace, better sleep as well as improved memory and concentration. It also helps to improve our connection with spirituality
Pranayama also helps to improve the quality of life in old age by clearing uric acid from the body, which can contribute to joint pains and discomfort. Regular practice can help to improve conditions such as backaches, headaches, rheumatism, stiffening muscles and joints.
After practicing breathing techniques regularly over the past couple of months I can feel the benefits for myself and my lung capacity has clearly increased. In addition the various techniques are very useful when I can sleep at night or I am particularly anxious. I felt prior to my practice my breathing was very fast and shallow and since I have started to become more conscious of each breath which will only serve to benefit me in the future.