Pranayama is the practice of controlled breathing. The word “pranayama” is a Sanskrit term that combines the word “prana,” meaning life force and “yama,” which means control. It is commonly used in conjunction with yoga or meditation. The most common benefits of this practice include reduced stress, better mental focus, and possibly better control over ailments like asthma.
The act of breathing is often taken for granted, but mindful manipulation of the breath can have many notable benefits. On the most basic level, breathing brings oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide. This act is essential for the body to function. Breathing that is too shallow or too quick will not provide the body with as much oxygen as possible and will remove less carbon dioxide.
Once one has learned pranayama, the methods used in this practice may begin to become part of everyday breathing. Pranayama benefits individuals by helping to create a habit of breathing correctly with the diaphragm rather than the chest. Taking slow, deep breaths which fill the lungs completely is beneficial to one’s overall health. Pranayama can also help to increase overall lung capacity, which is a lasting benefit that will help the individual to feel better even when he is not actively practicing pranayama.
Pranayama exercises have additional benefits that occur while the practice is taking place. This type of slow, deep, purposeful breathing creates a sense of calm and helps to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Pranayama benefits the act of meditation by helping the practitioner reach a deeper sense of focus and clarity.
The many pranayama benefits can be especially useful to those suffering from stress, anxiety, and even an uncontrolled temper. Focusing on one’s breath can help to take the focus away from other stressful thoughts and bring the mind back to the body and the simple act of breathing. Pranayama can be used in any time or place for a quick, natural, and effective way to calm down. Pranayama may also be able to help reduce asthma symptoms, though this should not be used as the sole method of treatment for serious asthma sufferers.
When used in conjunction with meditation or yoga exercises, pranayama benefits the entire experience. This type of breathing is believed to help bring the practitioner closer to enlightenment or a spiritual state of being. Those who wish to learn correct pranayama techniques from an experienced practitioner may want to take part in a yoga or meditation class which incorporates this type of breathing.