Do you ever count the number of breaths you take in a day? Or ever gave a thought to the process of breathing which is so vital for our life? Well, these questions will sound as stupid if asked. Strangely, we never think about our breathing until any breathing issues occur to us. Technically, breathing is defined as “an unconscious, involuntary, automatic process.” Thus, it comes naturally to us and we do not have to think twice before breathing. On the other hand “Pranayama” is a yogic practice that focuses on our breathing pattern. It is a practice of “breath regulation.” In Sanskrit, the word Pranayama is composed of two words “Prana” which means breath, life energy, spirit, or respiration, and “Ayama” which means control or expansion. While practicing pranayama we must follow our breathing pattern and concentrate on our inhaling and exhaling process.
Importance of “prana”: Its maintenance
What is the difference between our living body and a dead body? The dead body is not working and not moving either. The missing element in the corpse is the vital force, the prana.
It is mentioned in the Yogic texts that this vital force of our body aka the “prana” is vital for the functioning of human bodies as well as its vitality. In addition to that, the texts also mention that prana runs through various chakras and nadis in our body to keep it healthy and energetic. Similarly, Prana also regulates both conscious and unconscious body functions such as our breathing, digestion, blood flow, and so on. Meanwhile, whenever there is a blockage in chakras or nadis, a person may face diverse types of physical and mental problems. Therefore, we must try to maintain the good flow of prana in our bodies to live a happy and healthy life. The practice involves the movements of hath (hands) since it is hatha yoga along with the correct body posture. It involves:
- Puraka (Inhalation) – This involves deep and slow inhalation of breath after taking the mudra form of the hand.
- Kumbhaka (Retention) – This step involves the holding of breath for a few seconds before moving to the last and last step.
- Rechaka (Exhalation) – This is the ultimate step where you will slowly exhale the breath.
Why should we perform Pranayama?
The human being is in that stage of life where they will think about everything except their health. At this stage, where every other person is jammed with a schedule it becomes difficult for a person to take time even for breathing. Although, we constantly think about how to make our life healthy and what activities we should include in our hectic routine to achieve our health goals but still fail to follow them. We will think of every expensive way to accomplish a healthy life but will keep avoiding the inexpensive and more beneficial ways towards a healthy life.
We can easily find today, how people are running towards the gym to maintain their body shape and how they will get on several types of dieting like intermittent fasting or keto diet. They are ready to survive just on boiled water and vegetable but still would not make the right choice about their body. Undoubtedly, all these methods can give an accurate shape to the outer body but they cannot provide any mental peace. You may look good from the outside; your physical appearance will improve but what about your mental health? For that, we need to look at separate ways and Pranayama can be one way that can be incorporated into our health journey.
Ways of maintaining the flow of prana
Breathing plays a crucial role in the maintenance and regulation of Prana. So now we know that our breathing is related to our Prana. Now if someone asks whether you are breathing properly, the question may bring confusion to you. Who does not even breathe properly right? Nonetheless, many people are not aware of the fact that our way of breathing can also affect the way we perceive things, including our mental health. Most people use only a small part of their lung capacity to the fullest, and it is the incorrect way to breathe- says yoga expert Anu Kalhan. So yes, without being aware of it, we breathe incorrectly. Here, Pranayama comes into the play as pranayama is nothing but a simple practice of many breathing techniques and asanas.
Different benefits of Pranayamas
The prime goal of Pranayama is to connect our body and mind. It involves different breathing techniques and supplies our body with oxygen. Meanwhile, the regular practice of pranayama can do magic to your body. Let us see how it can benefit your mental and physical health in various ways-
- Helps in decreasing stress: Studies and recharge have found that practicing pranayama regularly can help in reducing stress. As pranayama clams our nerve system, it improves our stress response. Another study has proven that people with anxiety experienced less anxiety and stress after practicing pranayama regularly.
- Improves lung capacity: A healthy lung is important for a happy life. Therefore, it has become particularly important that we build good immunity to make our lungs strong. Moreover, practicing pranayama for six hours a day could have a huge effect on your lung function capacity.
- Improves sleep quality: Lack of sleep is one of the major problems that most people have been facing nowadays, especially the youths. The busy schedule, the work stress, and problems may cause a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even heart failure. However, the study states that Pranayama improves our sleep quality. As it calms our body, it benefits in a better quality of sleep.
- Reduce cigarette cravings: Do you want to get rid of your craving for cigarettes? We all know it is deadly to our health, but it is not an easy task to give up on such habits easily. But, practicing Pranayama regularly can help you get rid of this habit of yours.
- Boosts the immune system: To lead a happy life, it is important that we are free from any health problem and our body is full of energy. A person who practices Pranayama regularly is proven to have a better immune system. It provides more oxygen to the blood, which helps in strengthening the cells, tissues, and organs.
Five Pranayamas you must include in your daily workout routine
- Bhastrika Pranayama (Breath of Fire)- Including this Pranayama in your daily workout can benefit you in many ways. It helps in calming our minds. Our whole body and mind can get energy from practicing this yoga asana.
- Anulom-vilom Pranayama- Performing this Pranayam daily for 2-5 minutes will help normalize blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease. Along with it, this asana also reduces your stress level and improves digestion.
- Simhasana (Lion’s Breath)- This is the best exercise for our face, tongue, eyes, and throat as well. A lot of people face sore throats more often. Nevertheless, practicing Simhasana regularly helps in preventing soreness of the throat. This asana also helps in strengthening our hands and clearing the vocal cords.
- Mrigi Mudra Pranayama (Deer Seal Breathing)- If you want to calm your anxiety, then Mrigi Mudra Pranayama can help you in every way. Practicing this Pranayama decreases the depression rate, anxiety, and stress as well.
- Kapalbhati Pranayama (Skull Shining)- This exercise helps in keeping your lungs healthy. Along with it, practicing Kapalbhati Pranayama every morning will solve your breathing problems as well.
Choose Pranayama for a better life
Our body is a gift from God and we must take the utmost care of it. But in today’s life, it is not easy to maintain the perfect diet or follow the perfect routine which is required for our body and mind. Meanwhile, since the ancient ages, Yoga has proven to be a blessing for a peaceful mind and healthy body. There are numerous benefits of practicing Pranayama regularly. It will enhance the quality of Prana and make our bodies feel more lively, positive, and happy.
Along with it, all the yoga asanas are easy to do with practice and do not require any equipment. It may take only 30 minutes from your life. Similarly, if you practice Pranayama regularly, it will show benefits from your circulation system to the digestive system. Most importantly, Pranayam does not only help your physical health, but it makes a massive impact on your mental health as well. Moreover, having a sound body includes having stable mental health too. In this scenario, practicing Pranayama will give you the sound mind you should have to lead a happy life.