Inhale and Exhale with 7 Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing)
Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit words, where prana means life-force and yama means control. Pranayama combined with yoga postures (asana) and meditation is a way to control and master our breathing, and in turn many aspects of your Yoga practice and life in generalwhich is the foundation of our life force.
There are many types of pranayama used in the practice of yoga. Utilizing the breath while doing the physical postures, such as while seated is the foundation of Hatha Yoga. Combining all three elements of pranayama, postures (asana) and meditation are the corner stones of most other practices of Yoga as well.
A few pranyama techniques that we may touch on here are: Kumbhaka Pranayama (breath retention), Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious breath). IMPORTANT: Athough a familiarity with some pranayama techniques may be gained from reading and perhaps even videos, it is VERY important to find an experienced teacher that can guide your through the subtleties of these practices. All of the teachers at Ozark Mountain Yoga are very happy to spend extra time with you discussing Pranayama. Get informed and stay safe!
Now let’s take a look at some benefits and a few of the most common practices tof pranayama :
1. Pranayama can help prevent stress
Have you ever been so stressed that you had trouble breathing, or found yourself out of breath? All of us have, at some point in our lives, and the reason is simple. Stressful thoughts can set off your body’s fight or flight response, providing you with a burst of energy to react to the discerned threat. This can cause you to take quick and shallow breaths using your chest for the most part instead of the lower lungs. This leads to shortness of breath and other symptoms like increased blood pressure and pulse rate.
Pranayama offers a proven countermeasure: to take deep and slow breaths to initiate the parasympathetic nervous system to induce calmness in your body as well as in your mind. Deep breathing allows more oxygen to enter your body and can further help relieve the pressure on the neck and upper chest muscles.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique
The 4-7-8 relaxing breath is a technique that helps you relieve stress and is a type of Kumbhaka Pranayama (breath retention). One breath comprises of the 4 simple steps mentioned below, at the end of which you can breathe in and repeat.
- Breathe out entirely through your mouth making a whoosh noise.
- While counting to four, breathe in without a sound through your nose.
- Till the count of seven, hold your breath.
- For a count of eight, breathe out entirely through your mouth making a whoosh noise.
Regularly practicing pranayama exercises such as this allows one to gain more control of their breath, and remain in control even during stressful circumstances. Pranayama can also slowly build your focus and create a deeper connection and awareness of your thoughts. By consistently bringing your focus on your breath, a person becomes more aware and in control of their mind.
2. Keep calm and relax
Try taking deep breaths for the next 30 seconds. You will realize the calming effect deep, controlled breathing has on your nerves, stress, and muscle fatigue. Even the one you hadn’t realized. Pranayama yoga makes you habitual of breathing deeply, and being in control of your breath. As a result, gradually, you become and then remain more aware, calm, and relaxed at all times.
This alternate nose breathing technique can help relax and calm the mind. Whether you had a stressful day at work or have a long week ahead of you, you can try this technique to fill your mind with calmness, peace, and happiness. This technique provides a balance when it comes to breathing through your nose where one nostril can be more blocked than the other. Clearing out the obstructed channels in the body can refine your mental focus as well as improve concentration.
3. Set fire to those calories
Although the process might be slow and gradual, pranayama yoga can help you lose weight. Recent studies have provided evidence of the dissipation of fat cells through the breath and that deeper, longer controlled breaths facilitate this process. A pranyama technique that may help contribute in burning fat is that of Anuloma Viloma.
This technique involves inhaling through one nostril, holding your breath, and exhaling through the other nostril keeping in mind the 2:8:4 inhale, hold to exhale ratio. Anuloma viloma practiced with some yoga poses regularly can help you get rid of the fat throughout your body.
4. Level up your energy
Deep breathing, such as straight spinal, full-body breathing increases the level of oxygen in your body, and prevents shortness of breath in even in stressful situations. Again, Pranayama yoga techniques, coupled with yogic poses (asanas) conducted in concentrated, meditative fashion can also lift your energy levels if performed consistently over a period of time.
5. Use your lungs to the full capacity
One such type pranayama yoga is that of ujjayi breathing (victorious breath). This technique, which sounds like light snoring both on the inhale and exhale helps you to breathe fully instead of taking shallow breaths which is the typical case.
With ujayyi there is heat produced in the body in addition to stability. It can also help in lowering the heart rate back to normal which goes up in situations of stress or when you are exercising that can be exhausting.
6. Do more yoga to balance your heart rate after performing strenuous yoga
Sometimes performing different poses and sequences when it comes to doing yoga can increase your heart rate. What to do? More yoga. The technique of ujjayi breathing (victorious breath) can help your lower the heart rate back to normal that might have gone up while you were performing those demanding poses or sequences.
7. Improve digestion
Skull shining breathing technique
Known as kapal bhati pranayama, this technique helps rejuvenate brain cells, gives your mind a boost, causes the face to glow, invigorates the nervous system, and improves blood circulation. This breathing technique holds advantages for your muscles and abdominal organs and can improve digestion as well as fuel your appetite.
In the above article, we discussed pranayama, including some practical everyday techniques like 4-7-8 breathing techniques. Benefits were introduced that comprise of stress relief, relaxation, burning fat, and others.
Given the busy and hectic lifestyles we have become used to, it is no wonder that most of us have lost control of our breathing, and hence our mental focus and awareness. Pranayama is a great way of regaining that control.
Interested in learning more about yoga and pranayama? Check out the schedule at Ozark Mountain Yoga Studio.