The Healing Benefits Of Pranayama Techniques
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Benefits Of Different Pranayama Techniques
Pranayama techniques in yoga focus on regulating and balancing your breathing to improve your health. The benefits of different methods include maximum oxygen supply to the lungs, an efficient expulsion of carbon dioxide, better blood circulation, regulated heart rate and blood pressure, and most importantly reduced stress. It helps keep you calm throughout the day in any situation.
We all go through stressful lives that give us a very little reprieve from day-to-day worries. A good way to relax your mind and your body is to control your breathing. Your mind and your breathing are interrelated, which makes pranayama a very effective way of controlling your nerves.
Effect Of Breathing On Your Body
Your breathing will typically be slow and momentarily arrested when you’re lost in deep thoughts or when you’re calm. If you’re agitated, you’re likely to breathe in quick bursts and in an irregular rhythm. This shows that your body’s vital energy or prana is directly related to the mind and vice versa. Here’s a simple test to observe the effect of regulated breathing.
When you step into a cold shower, the body naturally reacts with a gasp and by tensing the body. Instead, consciously regulate your breathing when you step in. Breathe out slowly and steadily and observe how it minimizes the effect of the temperature. Try it out.
What Is Pranayama?
Some of the sources of our vital energy or prana are food, water, and sunlight. Pranayama is how we try to control this prana and all vital energies in our body.1 And the way you do this is not by regulating the inhalation but exhalation. Inhaling comes automatically. But you control the flow of energy only by slowing down the release of breath.
Benefits Of Pranayama
Pranayama improves your quality of life for a longer period, keeps you calm and steady, and keeps away diseases – both psychological and physical.
- Regulates the rate of breathing and heart rate2
- Regulates blood pressure3
- Stimulates blood circulation
- Expels toxins from the body via enhanced and effective breathing
- Improves digestion and increases immunity4
- Can regulate your mood and calm you down5
- Can assist in weight loss: this is probably due to dietary changes that are generally suggested when following a yogic life.6 Although pranayama techniques such as kapalabhati work on the abdomen, this alone will have only a minimal influence on weight loss.
- Eases your way into meditation: Meditation requires a calm and relaxed state of mind and body, and this requires a steady breath. Practicing pranayama will help you find a balanced way of breathing that keeps you naturally calm.
Pranayama techniques can be different in different schools of yoga and are also of different types. Here we give you the benefits of different pranayama techniques:
1. Benefits Of Abdominal Breathing
This is one of the three prominent types of breathing: abdominal, chest, and clavicular (shallow). Abdominal breathing supplies the maximum oxygen to your lungs and benefits your health in many ways:
- Massages the heart as the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up when you exhale
- Massages the abdominal organs as the abdomen expands while the diaphragm goes down when you inhale
- Reduces tension and stress that comes with shallow breathing
- Slows down the heart rate and regulates blood pressure and contributes to managing hypertension7
2. Benefits Of Yogic Breathing
Here, you use all three respiratory muscles, i.e., abdomen, chest, and clavicle. Chest breathing considerably increases the capacity of the lungs. But abdominal breathing fills up most of the lungs. Clavicular breathing, on its own, is quite shallow. But it polishes your breathing technique by completely expanding the chest and also helps with rounded shoulders. Some of the other benefits are as follows:
- Increases the oxygen supply to all the cells in the body
- Freshens up your mind and stimulates your sensory perception
3. Benefits Of Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma)
Anuloma viloma literally means controlling the prana and is also called nadi shodhana pranayama. The right nostril or nadi is called the sun breath (pingala) and the left nadi is called the moon breath (ida). Breathing through different nostrils are said to be connected to your brain functions: The left (logical) side of the brain is said to be more active when the right nadi is more open and the right (creative) side of the brain is active when the left nadi is more open.8
The benefit of right nadi breathing is that it produces heat, which improves metabolism. Left nadi breathing cools the body and helps you relax. However, prolonged right-side breathing causes psychological issues, whereas left-side breathing causes severe lethargy.
Alternate nostril breathing focuses on balanced breathing through both nostrils and has multiple benefits:
- Cleanses and strengthens the lungs
- Expels carbon dioxide better
- Increases the oxygen supply to the blood
- Prevents health issues caused by single nostril breathing and thus balances the brain hemispheres
- Helps you focus better
4. Benefits Of Kapalabhati
This is one of the sat kriyas or six cleansing exercises for the body. Since it stimulates your nervous system, preferably practice this in the morning (and not in the evening) to keep you active throughout the day. Apart from this, its benefits are as follows:
- Cleanses the nasal pathway and the respiratory system
- Strengthens and increases lung capacity
- Cures bronchial congestion
- Cures asthma over time with constant practice
- Increases oxygen flow into the body and the outflow of carbon dioxide
- Massages the liver, stomach, heart, and pancreas
- Tones the circulatory and digestive systems
You might hyperventilate when practicing kapalabhati for the first time. If so, lie down and relax. Once you feel better, check if your chest is moving. Only the abdomen should move while breathing. Do not practice it before going to bed.
5. Benefits Of Bhastrika
The difference between bhastrika and kapalabhati is that it uses the whole respiratory system while kapalabhati uses just the diaphragm. Here are its benefits:
- Reduces throat inflammation
- Increases gastric fire
- Cures all diseases that result due to excess bile, wind, and phlegm
- Cures asthma
- Improves appetite
6. Benefits Of Ujjayi
While kapalabhati and bhastrika use rapid breaths to cleanse your system, ujjayi involves deep, slow breathing that fills the lungs comfortably and helps you in many ways:9
- Increase the vital capacity of the lungs
- Expels phlegm from the throat and reduces cough
- Improves digestion
- Cures dyspepsia
- Relieves dysentery
- Regulates the nervous system and calms you down during stressful situations
7. Benefits Of Sitali
Sitali is where you breathe in through your mouth and breathe out through your nostrils. It is compared to breathing air through a straw and has multiple benefits:
- Purifies the blood
- Reduces thirst
- Cools the entire bodily system
8. Benefits Of Kumbhaka
Kumbhaka means retaining breath and is used in many other forms of pranayama. You practice kumbhaka in two ways – restraining the intake of breath (antara kumbhaka) or restraining the exhalation (bahya kumbhaka).10 This breathing technique is said to be capable of increasing the period of life. If you hold your breath for 1 minute, you can supposedly increase the span of your life by 1 minute.11
9. Benefits Of Agnisar Kriya
Agnisar kriya is also a cleansing technique of pranayama with many benefits on your health:
- Improves metabolism and digestion12
- Relieves constipation
- Might help with reducing tummy fat
- Makes you feel energetic
- Helps with treating asthma and tuberculosis
- Expels phlegm
10. Benefits Of Udgeeth Pranayama
This combines chanting “Aum (Om)” and regulating your breath. It helps you in the following ways:
- Calms you down
- Relieves hypertension
- Can help deal with acidity
- Might improve memory
11. Benefits Of Murcha Pranayama
Murcha pranayama, which literally means “to faint or expand” makes use of kumbhaka and has many uses:
- Relaxes your mind and body
- Improves concentration
Do not practice this if you suffer from cardiac issues, vertigo, or high blood pressure.13
Pranayama is beneficial for people of any age. However, avoid practicing it if you’ve severe heart-related issues. If pregnant, follow pranayama only if your yoga teacher and your doctor approve. In general, always practice pranayama under the guidance of a yoga teacher to get the technique right and get optimum benefits out of it.
References [ + ]
|1, 4.||↑||Sivananda, Swami. The Science of Pranayama. Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy, Divine Life Society, 1962.|
|2.||↑||PRANAYAMA, NADISUDDHI, BEFORE VIBHAGA PRANAYAMA, and BEFORE MAHATYOGA PRANAYAMA. “Heart rate alterations in different types of pranayamas.” Indian J I’nysiol Phannacol 36, no. 4 (1992): 20-288.|
|3.||↑||Gopal, K. S., O. P. Bhatnagar, N. Subramanian, and S. D. Nishith. “Effect of yogasanas and pranayamas on blood pressure, pulse rate and some respiratory functions.” Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 17, no. 3 (1973): 273.|
|5.||↑||Jain, Vandana. “Effect of yogic intervention pranayama on mood states anxiety stress depression.” (2009).|
|6.||↑||Gokal, Raman, Louisa Shillito, and Swami Ramdevji Maharaj. “Positive impact of yoga and pranayama on obesity, hypertension, blood sugar, and cholesterol: a pilot assessment.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 13, no. 10 (2007): 1056-1058.|
|7.||↑||Wang, Shu-Zhen, Sha Li, Xiao-Yang Xu, Gui-Ping Lin, Li Shao, Yan Zhao, and Ting Huai Wang. “Effect of slow abdominal breathing combined with biofeedback on blood pressure and heart rate variability in prehypertension.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 16, no. 10 (2010): 1039-1045.|
|8, 11.||↑||Devananda, Swami Vishnu. The complete illustrated book of yoga. Harmony, 2011.|
|9.||↑||Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Posture and Meditation. Random House, 2012.|
|10.||↑||Iyengar, Bellur Krishnamukar Sundara. “Light on yoga.” (1965).|
|12.||↑||Kaswala, Dharmesh, Shamik Shah, Avantika Mishra, Hardik Patel, Nishith Patel, Pravesh Sangwan, Ari Chodos, and Zamir Brelvi. “Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease?.” International journal of yoga 6, no. 2 (2013): 131.|
|13.||↑||Swami, Kriyananda, and Stephen Sturgess. The Yoga Book: A Practical Guide to Self-realization. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2003.|
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.