What is Pranayama and Its Healing Benefits?

Summary: Learn all about the yogic breathing technique and its benefits for the mind and body.

To live and exist, breathing is the most important activity for all living beings. And, the most wonderful fact about it is that breathing is completely natural and effortless. It just happens. We breathe unconsciously as it is regulated by the autonomic nervous system of the body. But, what if we start to breathe consciously or try to control the breath pattern? If done in the right way with the right techniques, conscious breathing can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul of the person and transform his entire being. In yogic terms, the practice of breathing the right way is known as Pranayama.

‘Pranayama’—Most of us are familiar with this word or at least have heard of it at some point in our life. Generally, people think of it as an ordinary breathing yogic exercise. But in reality, the subject is bigger than one can possibly imagine. Comprised of two Sanskrit words, ‘prana’ means self-energizing life force that permeates the universe and sustains the body and ‘ayama’ means extension. Pranayama can be defined as a yogic technique to expand and achieve ‘control of life energy’. The vehicle for prana is ‘breath’. So, Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath pattern. In simple words, it is a systematic combination of exhalation and inhalation that acts a connecting link between physical and mental yogic practices.

As outlined in the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, Pranayama is the 4th limb of the 8th limbs of yoga. It bridges the external body with the internal by breath. In this way, it develops and refines the mind-body connection and enables the person to stay connected to the present moment. The process of deep inhalations and exhalations helps stay calm and centered and, revitalizes the mind and body.

According to the ancient scriptures, there are 8 types of Pranayama :

1. Suryabhedhana
2. Ujjayi
3. Sitkari
4. Sitali
5. Bhastrika
6. Bharmari
7. Murchha
8. Plavini

The Healing Benefits of Pranayama: The yogic breathing exercise affects the proper functioning of vital organs of the human body. Regular practice of Pranayama offers beneficial impacts upon the respiratory system, circulatory system, digestive system, endocrine system, etc.

Here are some of the major benefits of Pranayama:

1. The deep breathing exercises increase the supply of oxygen to the lungs and heart, ensuring their proper functioning.
2. It tones up the kidney and improves the functioning of the nervous system.
3. It helps the brain to work more efficiently by increasing blood flow to the brain region.
4. It also benefits the autonomic nervous system which controls heart rate, respiration, glandular secretions, digestion, and blood pressure.
5. It controls ageing.
6. It ensures smooth oxygen circulation within the body, helping in weight regulation as more oxygen burns more fat.
7. Pranayama encourages systematic pace of breathing, which results in increased lifespan of the practitioner.
8. Controlled breathing helps in controlling anger, restlessness and other negative emotions. The deep breathing exercises guide our emotions to the right direction.
9. Pranayama brings down the level of blood pressure and helps in contending cardiovascular diseases.
10. It increases capacity of the lungs, thereby improving its efficiency and functioning.
11. It helps in smooth digestion and, cures constipation and indigestion problems.
12. It helps ease stress and anxiety, calms and stabilizes the mind, and increases concentration.
13. It relieves depression, inactiveness and lethargy, and brings power and vigor.
14. It promotes physical, spiritual, and mental happiness.

Develop a regular practice of Pranayama and start living a healthier, happier and blissful life.