Pranayama - Why is it Important?

04-Feb-2014

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word for breathing techniques or the science of breath control.  The Sanskrit word is actually derived from the words “Prana” (life energy), “Yama” (discipline), and “Ayama” (expansion).  The aim of Yoga breathing is to meet the needs of an individual’s body and maintain it in its vibrant health through a series of exercises which are also part in preparing one for the meditation process.

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word for breathing techniques or the science of breath control.  The Sanskrit word is actually derived from the words “Prana” (life energy), “Yama” (discipline), and “Ayama” (expansion).  The aim of Yoga breathing is to meet the needs of an individual’s body and maintain it in its vibrant health through a series of exercises which are also part in preparing one for the meditation process.

 

Sure everyone knows how to breathe.  Even the baby inside a mother’s womb is already breathing.  It is something natural, spontaneous and even if we are not aware of it, we automatically breathe.  So why even bother with Pranayama?  We all know that breathing is an inevitable part of one’s being.  We have a tendency to pay attention to how we breathe.  There are times when we unconsciously modify or restrict our breathing.  This article focuses on the proper way of breathing and the benefits that one can gain from Pranayama.

Some of us have become used to breathing from our chest which is unnatural and unhealthy because they are only using a fraction of their lungs and not being able to maximize its capacity.  This is where Pranayama comes in by teaching us the techniques in order to breathe deeply and slowly. 

Aside from teaching us the techniques, Pranayama’s benefits include the following:

1.    Body wastes and toxins are reduced a great amount - Bringing in more oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body are very vital for its efficient function.  Breathing exercises help one to supply himself with the needed essential nutrient otherwise the vital organs will be degraded resulting to negative thoughts, mental sluggishness, and sometimes even depression;

2.    Improvement in metabolism and health condition which prevents minor as well as major diseases as adequate oxygen rejuvenates a person as it purifies bloodstream;

3.    Drives away stress leading to peace of mind and serenity;

4.    Clear function of mind that provides a more improved self-control in terms of handling reactions and temper; and,

5.    Guides one to a spiritual journey.

There are two elements that one must always remember when breathing: 


1.    Breathe through the nose – Most of us think that breathing should be done through the mouth but there is an adverse effect in the Thyroid gland’s development.  The nose has several defense mechanisms that avert impurities that enter the body.

2.    Proper posture – Breathing also requires proper posture.  Slouching restricts one to fully maximize the lungs. 

 

In Pranayama, there are four stages of Yoga Breathing : Inhalation (Puraka) - Full Pause (Abhyantara Kumbhaka) – Exhalation (Rechaka) – Empty Pause (Bahya Kumbhaka)

 

The first stage involves a single smooth and continuous inhalation without a pause.  The next stage needs one to deliberately stop inhaling while retaining the inhaled air in the lungs without any movement from any part of the body including any muscles or the lungs.   The third stage is exhaling the air in a smooth and continuous process.  Completing the cycle is the last stage which is pausing after exhaling.

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