Yoga is all about exercises for physical and mental wellness. It teaches a deeper practice of breath regulation, or also known as pranayama. In Sanskrit, the word “prana” refers to “life energy,” and “yama” refers to “control.”
Pranayama is the proper breathing in yoga, usually consists of breathing techniques and patterns that you will be using for specific poses and meditation. These practices will, later on, be the mind-body benefits of yoga.
In this guide, let’s have a closer look at pranayama, learn some breathing techniques, and ultimately discover its unique therapeutic benefits brought by a deeper breathing practice and mindfulness.
Pranayama 101: The Breathing In Yoga
The root of all deep breathing practices originally came from the science of yoga: pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga. Ancient yogis learned that you could change every aspect of your life by controlling or regulating the breath.
Having a deep sigh at the end of a very long day is an example of your body’s natural way of releasing stress. The deeper you recognize the power of breathwork, the deeper you receive the mind-body benefits that pranayama carries.
4 Breathing Techniques You Should Try
Now that you know how pranayama can positively affect your health, why not give these breathing techniques or patterns a try?
The breath reflects the personal condition we are in. Thus, it’s like a mirror. For example, whenever we are attacked by stress and anxiety, we can notice that our breathing is short and abnormal.
This is precisely why in yoga practice, advisedly, we always start by listening to the breathing so that we can recognize the needs of our inner self and use that as an advantage to support ourselves throughout.
Deep Belly Breathing
One of the essential breathing techniques in yoga practice is the ability to send the breath into the belly. This is because it is where the natural resting place of breathing.
As an example, sleeping babies breathe through their bellies.
Deep belly breathing relaxes our nervous system by pinpointing the vagus never, the biggest cranial nerve in the body. Which, in return, relieves the tension and stress signs in the brain.
This breathing technique has been around for thousands of years to help deepen the hatha yoga practice, synchronizing the breathwork with the physical movement to add rhythm.
The ocean breathing is done by gently tightening the throat’s opening to make a slight resistance to airflow. The sound it makes is referred the as oceanic breath, which is now known as ocean breathing.
Skull Shining Breathing
Skull shining breathing or also known as the breath of fire, is an excellent way to invigorate the mind and body and jump-start your yoga experience when laziness hits you hard. Try a few rounds of this breathing technique before you start exercising.
Mind-body Benefits of Pranayama
According to scientific studies, breathing regulation, which in yoga is called pranayama, can bring mind and body benefits in many ways. Below are some of its benefits you should know:
In a recent study, young adults can reduce their stress levels by the practice of pranayama. Professionals theorized that breath regulation calms the nervous system, which in turn improves your stress management.
Another study reaped identical effects. People who practiced pranayama felt less anxiety before undergoing a test. The experts behind this study said that this is the result of increased oxygen uptake of pranayama.
Improves sleeping habit
The stress-relieving benefits of pranayama may also improve your sleep quality. In clinical trials, one of the techniques of pranayama called the Brahmari, or bee breathing, was purposedly used to slow down the heart rate when practiced for five minutes.
A recent study found that pranayama effectively lessens the symptoms of people with obstructive sleep apnea.
Plus, it also found that the practice of pranayama can reduce snoring and daytime fatigue, which leads to a better sleeping habit.
As we know, breathing is natural. We do it without paying much attention. But in pranayama practice, you need to be mindful of your breathing and how it exactly feels.
You also need to focus on the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future. This increases mindfulness.
According to research, people who practice pranayama showed increased levels of mindfulness than people who did not.
The same people also showed better levels of emotional control. This was the effect of the calming benefit of pranayama, which allows you to be more mindful.
Experts also mentioned that breathing in yoga or pranayama helps discharge carbon dioxide and boosts oxygen consumption, which improves brain cells. This can also lead to increased mindfulness by enhancing focus and concentration.
Hypertension, which is commonly known as high blood pressure, occurs when your blood pressure is not in a healthy state. This inspires the risk for some possibly serious health complications like stroke or even heart disease.
Stress is a major factor in hypertension. Practicing pranayama can help regulate your blood pressure by improving stress response.
In a recent study, people with mild hypertension are medicated with antihypertensive-based drugs for six weeks. Half of them also advised practicing pranayama for six weeks. At the end of the study, half of the people who underwent pranayama displayed a healthier blood pressure than the others treated with drugs.
This is likely the result of the mindful breathing techniques used in pranayama. When you focus on your breathing, you can help your nervous system be calm, which enables you to relieve stress and prevent you from the possible risks of hypertension.
Better respiratory system
As a practice of breathing regulation, the breathing techniques and patterns used can improve your lung function.
A study found that six weeks of exercising pranayama (for one hour a day) can positively affect your respiratory system. This practice also enhances lung function, based on pulmonary experimental findings.
According to the experts, practicing pranayama may be a good way of treating lung problems like asthma, allergic bronchitis, mild pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
Heightens cognitive function
Aside from improving your lung function, pranayama can also make your brain function better.
Based on research, twelve weeks of practicing pranayama heightened executive function, consisting of better memory, cognitive function, and reasoning skills. Moreover, it also found that the practice of pranayama was linked to better auditory skills and improved sensory system performance.
Professionals said these are the results of the stress-relieving effects of practicing pranayama— the improved oxygen uptake, which fuels the vital organs, nerves, and brain.
Helps overcome cigar cravings
The last and definitely not the least of mind-body perks of pranayama can help people to quit smoking.
In an experiment, just 10 minutes of practicing pranayama led to a temporary decreased in cigar cravings. Plus, mindfulness-based yoga breathing techniques reduce the bad effects connected with smoking withdrawal symptoms.
The practice of pranayama is an excellent exercise to jump-start your yoga practice. Being mindful of our breathing in yoga practice helps us access a deeper spiritual connection and to be utterly aware of ourselves to prevent the risk of injury. The best way to practice pranayama in your yoga practice is to experience it yourself. So crack those knuckles and level up your yoga experience, but of course, don’t forget to breathe.