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Yoga Breathing or Pranayama
Pranayama is traditionally viewed as a practice involving a lot more than just breathing for relaxation.
It is a term having a broad range of meanings and connotations. It also stands for cosmic power, or power of the whole entire universe that reveals itself as a conscious living entity in us through the miracle of breathing.
The sage Patanjali, in Yoga Sutras, defines Pranayama as “regulation of incoming and outgoing breath coupled with retention.
In Sanskrit, the word Pranayama is composed of two parts, viz. Prana and Ayama.
The latter means control; it describes the action of Pranayama. Prana – that most people are unaware of – is vital energy. It is that energy that manifests itself as the self-energizing force embracing one’s body. When this force enfolds the entire body with control, it is called Pranayama.
The goal of Pranayama is not to bring the inhale and exhale into a particular relationship with each other. Nor is it to set up a particular length of breath. The different pranayama practices render lots of sundry possibilities for following the breath, as well. When you follow your breath, your mind is drawn into activities of your breath. Pranayama prepares us, in this manner for the stillness of meditation to come.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama literally means the breath of life.
This ancient Indian form of breath control is an integral part of Yoga. Although there are many different techniques of carrying out Pranayama, all of them essentially consist of a series of deep inhalations and gentle exhalations.
Regular and proper practice of Pranayama can have many benefits on the body and the mind.
Some of the Pranayama benefits include:
The single biggest benefit of Pranayama is that it teaches us to breathe again. Although breathing is such an elemental part of life, the truth is that most adults do not breathe properly. We tend to take quick, shallow breaths and breathe from the chest instead of the stomach.
The regular practice of Pranayama helps us to focus on our breathing technique and teaches us to breathe deeply from the belly.
Years of shallow breathing also take their toll on the lungs and roughly one third of the lungs remain unutilized. By following the deep breathing techniques taught in Pranayama, one can utilize all of the lungs to breathe effectively. This helps to energize the body as more oxygen is available to parts of the body that were previously deprived of it.
When the supply of oxygen to the body is increased, all the various organs and systems work much more efficiently. This helps to increase the metabolic rate. Thus, the body burns fat more efficiently and digestion is also improved. The increase in flow of oxygen and blood also strengthens the immune system.
Regular practice of Pranayama increases lung capacity. It is very helpful for those who suffer from lung based diseases such as asthma or bronchitis. Pranayama can also retard and reverse the effects of lung damage in smokers.
Different techniques of Pranayama also help to lower or raise the blood pressure depending on the technique of Pranayama that is practiced. Other Pranayama benefits include improved abdominal tone, opening of energy blockages in the body and decongestion of nasal passages. It also helps to flush out toxins from the body and is beneficial to patients suffering from ailments such as allergies, heart conditions, insomnia, chronic pain and imbalances in the endocrine system.
Pranayama is not only about breath control but also mind control. It helps to relax and de-stress the mind.It also helps to improve focus and concentration. Regular practice can also help to balance and centre the mind.