Breathing is significant to be alive and yet we hardly pay attention to it…unless it’s hard to get it, of course. We know that breathing exercise and techniques play a vital role in yoga, especially in Pranayama.
Therefore, in order to be aware of more, today we are going to talk about breathing and Pranayama.
We will discuss breathing, how it influences Pranayama and lots of other things including the importance of pranayama or breathing exercise and its benefits.
So let us get started.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is one of the important facets of yoga. In pranayama, control over your breath is quite important as in yoga. It helps to control and have power over breathing.
“When you own your breath
Nobody can steal your place”
Pranayama consists of two Sanskrit words: prāṇa and ayāma. Prāṇa means life force or breath and Ayāma means to control or free (prāṇa). It defines the term pranayama as life force or energy (i.e. breath) that can be controlled or set free.
It is always fascinating to me how yoga has always been so progressive and advance in all terms. Yoga has made use of breathing so efficiently through pranayama that it can change the state of your body and mind.
“Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only and this Prana is different from the breathing you have in your physical body.”
– Swami Chidananda Saraswati
How Breathing Influences Pranayama
Breathing is the most valuable and yet ignored gift to the human race. It is one of those things that we tend to value when we don’t have it. It is like a friend who is always there for you for your whole life and when it’s gone, you are lost (I mean dead...Yeah).
Breathing is the reason oxygen reaches to our body and affects each and every cell. It directly affects the functioning of the heart and brain. How we fell short of breath when we are scared or angry, or smooth when we are happy and calm.
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.”- Hatha Yoga Pradipika
It shows how breathing is linked to our emotions and feeling and how it can influence them.
Since breathing is literally the reason for our existence, it persuades every living cell in our body. Thus, it has a huge impact on pranayama exercises.
Importance of Pranayama
As aforesaid, breathing directly affects the functioning of the heart and brain. Any contemplation and thought can modify the pace of your breath. If a person comprehends and learns the correct breathing technique, it can have a massive effect over his\her acts, belief, opinion, deeds and all over personality.
Breathing is an involuntary action and pranayama helps to get its control by individuals.
As a fire blazes brightly when the covering of ash over it is scattered by the wind, the divine fire within the body shines in all its majesty when the ashes of desire are scattered by the practice of pranayama. - B.K.S IYENGAR
It is said that if someone becomes thoroughly aware of all breathing techniques and becomes its master then he\she can comprehend about self-healing.
Benefits of Performing The Breathing Exercise
- Pranayama increases lungs efficiency to respire.
- It improves blood circulation as it helps more oxygen to reach each cell through the blood.
- Due to improved circulation and more oxygenated blood to cells, pranayama keeps heart healthy too.
- Pranayama is also believed to increase life expectancy.
- It helps in delaying aging and improves memories
- Pranayama improves digestion and constipation problems.
- Since Pranayama affects mind directly, it helps to better the condition of depression, anxiety and stress patients.
- Pranayama assists to bring balance between body and soul and provides relaxation to the body
- It rejuvenates the body and keeps lethargy away.
Some Pranayama or Breathing Exercise
Some of the Pranayama or Breathing Exercise that can be beneficial if performed regularly are given below:
Anuloma Viloma (Nadhi Sodhana)
- Sit down in the position of padmasana and put your hands in your knees
- Block your right nostril with the right thumb and breathe in slowly through the left nostril
- After few seconds, close your left nostril with the ring finger without unblocking the right nostril
- Hold your breath for few seconds
- Gradually let go your thumb from the right nostril and exhale through it
- Remember to take a pause prior to breathing in again through the same side
- Repeat the procedure with the left nostril.
- Perform a complete cycle of breathing in and out from both the nostrils
- Do at least 8-10 cycles daily
- Anuloma Viloma improves lungs efficiency
- It helps to make memory sharp
- The practice of Anuloma Viloma helps in respiratory-related illnesses like asthma and bronchitis
- It helps to cure stress, anxiety, and depression
Ujjayi Pranayama (Deep Throat Breathing Exercise)
- Sit down, keep the spine erect and be relax
- Close your eyes and deeply but slowly breathe in and breathe out
- Between inhalation and exhalation, seize your breathing for a moment, then contract some of the breath in the back of your throat
- While breathing out, you can feel the air on the upper part of your mouth
- Do at least 10-15 cycles daily
- Ujjayi Pranayama helps in sinus and thyroid problems
- It helps to increase focus and concentration
- The regular practice of Ujjayi Pranayama helps to improve hear related disease
- It helps to improve conditions in indigestion, cough, and cold
Mrigi mudra (Deer Seal)
- Go down on your knees and cross your ankles in a way that the front of the right ankle crosses over the back of the left. The feet should point outwards and compressed against the perineum.
- Keep your palms on your knees, spread them out and press tightly on your knees.
- Take a deep breath and at the same time, open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out pointing down towards the chin.
- While doing the above step, your eyes should be open wide and the muscles of the throat should be constricted (only the front one). Make sure that the breath passes over the back of the throat.
- Try to keep your fix your eyes on the spot between your eyebrows or just focus on the tip of your nose. Your choice.
- Roar 3 to 4 times. Switch the position of feet and then repeat the same procedure
- Try to do it at least 6-8 times
- Mrigi mudra helps to relieve tension in chest and face
- It helps to stimulate front muscles of the throat
- Mrigi mudra also helps to stimulate eyes, tongue, vocal cords, chest, diaphragm, and abdomen.
- Regular practice of this pranayama helps to eliminate bad breath.
Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)
- Be seated in padmasana, keeping your spine straight.
- Take a deep lungful of air through your nose and release the breath after five seconds.
- Repeat this few times
- Subsequently, commence breathing out quickly and vigorously through your nose. Breathe in the same way.
- Try to get your breath from your diaphragm
- Before doing another round, take a few normal breaths.
- Repeat 8-10 times
- Bhastrika Pranayama improves the immune system.
- Its disciplined practice provides relaxation in anxiety and depression.
- It helps the brain to get more oxygen.
- Bhastrika Pranayama helps to rejuvenate body and mind too.
- The practice of Bhastrika Pranayama improves the functioning of the nervous system.
There are other breathing exercises too that can be practiced regularly. These are Kumbhaka Pranayama (Birth Retention), Mula Bandha (Root Bond), and Swara Yoga Pranayama (Yoga of Sound Breath).