“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.” -Unknown
Pranayama is comprised of two Sanskrit words which mean life force energy (breath) and the techniques to control it. Steady, calm breathing helps you flow easily from each asana (pose). The health benefits of pranayama include reduced anxiety and stress, increased oxygen to the blood, relaxation, and enhanced concentration just to name a few.
When we’re in a life threatening situation, the first thing we have to do is remain calm. Slow deep breaths are imperative to help regulate the nervous system so that we can persevere.
Breathing through the nose is usually the most widely used breathing technique when practicing yoga and just while breathing in general. It helps keep the body warmer, and when we are warm, it allows our body to stretch much more easily.
There are many different breathing techniques but here are few of the most popular:
Nadi Shodhana Pranyama- This is an alternate nostril breathing technique that is used. Nadi means “channel” and shodhana “cleaning and purifying”.
Ujjayi Breath– This means “victorious breath” and should be used consistently throughout a Vinyasa flow session. It involves constricting the throat and inhaling through the nose and out the nose, with you’re lips gently closed.
Three-Part Breath– This is probably the best technique of all since you’re taking a full breath. You start by expanding your belly, then the ribs, and finally your chest to fill your lungs all the way up and then you slowly exhale.
Savasana (Relaxation)- This is usually performed at the end of every yoga session. It is known as the corpse pose in which you are lying on your back. Ideally your hands should be away from your body, and the legs are at least 12 inches apart. This isn’t a nap time and requires much more effort and concentration. This involves breathing through your diaphragm and taking long, slow, steady breaths.
Caution: There are serious health risked involved with practicing pranayama and should be done with a doctor’s approval.
In the book Light on Pranayama by B.K.S Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga, “Pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power, and sound judgement.”
He also describes Pranayama as “a conscious prolongation of inhalation, retention, and exhalation. Inhalation is the act of receiving the primal energy in the form of breath, and retention is when the breath is held in order to savor that energy.”
Sometimes we often take for granted how important breath is. It’s not only essential to life itself, but it has the power to help us remain calm, relaxed, and improves our health.