Pranayama Breathing Techniques:
Meditation and all yoga styles are influenced by different pranayama breathing techniques. Pranayama is the conscious awareness of the breath. The life force that energizes and relaxes the body. The term derives from the Sanskrit, prana, which means “life force”, and ayama, which means “extension”.
Pranayama is an integral part of yoga. Controlled breathing allows both the rhythm of execution of yoga poses and relaxation of the mind, for meditation. This daily “involuntary action” of the body becomes a focal point in practice and much more, voluntary.
These ancient breathing techniques serve several functions. For example; purification of the body and mind, to improve concentration and focus, rejuvenation, and healing. Importantly, is to understand the broad sense of the practice. Then, conquer the techniques that support your growth, individually.
Meaning of Pranayama:
Pranayama is the fourth aspect, or “limb”, of the spiritual practice of Ashtanga yoga.
The great sage, Patanjali, outlined these arts as follows:
- Yama (ethical life)
- Niyama (healthy life)
- Asana (the meditative sitting posture, or the more physical poses of yoga)
- Pranayama (awareness of one’s breath)
- Pratyahara (withdrawing the mind from the senses)
- Dharana (deep concentration)
- Dhyana (deep meditation)
- Samadhi (enlightenment)
Pranayama Consists Of Four Recognizable Phases:
Abhyantara kumbhaka (the conscious pause after inhalation)
Bahya Kumbhaka (the conscious pause after exhalation)
Each phase of pranayama has the effect of increasing physical awareness and strengthening introspection. Thus, pranayama is an integral part of the yoga practice. Furthermore, a key element in the ultimate quest for enlightenment.
In fact, increasing our own life force can be achieved by simply working on these breathing exercises. Furthermore, it is believed that a change in the prana, affects the entire physical, and mental self. Nonetheless, learning how to properly practice pranayama at it’s most basic level is crucial. Then, advanced pranayama breathing techniques can help to relieve impurities, opening up the channels within the body for proper flow of energy.
When To Practice Pranayama?
Oftentimes, breathing techniques are encouraged to be practices on an empty stomach. Preferably at sunrise, sunset or several hours before or after meals.
General Benefits Of Pranayama Breathing Techniques
Pranayama or breathing exercises have a way of shifting the body from the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight), to activating the parasympathetic system. This is the more calming side of the autonomic nervous system.
Activating this system allows us to improve our digestive abilities and even fight insomnia.
In general, you can easily experience the power of breathing by inhaling deeply and exhaling for a few moments longer than the time of inspiration.
Pranayama breathing techniques might be considered as a purely mechanical operation. However, they create a definite effect on the body, mind and spirit. Oftentimes, these achievements are met once the practitioner has a deeper understanding between these three dimensions.
Pranayama has been shown to have positive effects on perceived stress, even cardiovascular parameters. For example, significant reductions in heart rate (HR), even blood pressure (BP).
Research has even indicted it’s anxiety aiding benefits. For example, pranayama’s potential significant effect on anxiety related to test performance. In addition, a 2017 study, concluded pranayama’s ability to increase mindfulness and better levels of emotional regulation.
Subjects suffering from obstructive sleep apnea have also shown improvement in sleep quality.
Surely, you can see the vast benefits of this practice. Pranayama has far reaching abilities for many different cultures and demographics around the globe.
In daily life, most of the things we do are mechanical and automatic. We eat without awareness, work, experience anger, joy, jealousy, etc. all without the awareness of what we do, feel and experience.
Pranayama breathing techniques are methods for increasing the sensitivity in breathing. Consequently, to help awaken an awareness of the aspects of breath, prana, body and mind, that are normally beyond our earthly awareness.