Pranayam purifies ida and pingala nadi, and also removes sensory distraction of mind.It is used to energy the mind for mental work; to sleepiness and to prepare to the mind for meditation.It makes the mind more alert and perceptive and is an excellent pre-meditation.Its also useful in the treatment of low blood pressure, high blood pressure, and heart disease.Pranayam relieves stress and cerebral tension alleviating anger, anxiety, insomnia.It speeds up the healing of body tissue.It gives control over hunger and thirst, and generates a feeling of satisfaction.
Five types of prana are responsible for various pranic activities in the body, they are Prana, Apana, Vyan, Udana & Samana. Out of these Prana and Apana are most important.On subtle levels prana represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and “ayama” means control.
One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.Patanjali in his text of Yoga Sutras mentioned pranayama as means of attaining higher states of awareness.He mentions the holding of breath as important practice of reaching Samadhi. Hatha Yoga also talks about 8 types of pranayama which will make the body and mind healthy.Pranayam helps in the elimination of carbon dioxide and water vapour properly.Elimination of excess salts in the form of sweat is promoted by pranayam. This is because pranayam stimulates the sweat glands through its influence on the hypothalamus.
There are two types:-
i) The central nervous system, consisting of the brain, the spinal cord and the spinal nerves.
ii) The autonomic nervous system. The former governs all the voluntary functions The nervous tissue s highly sensitive to lack of oxygen and excess of carbon dio- xide. Moderate practice of pranayam can help to supply enough oxygen.
Why is the breath so important?
It’s the first thing and last thing we do in our lives. The one constant thing we all have. Without breath there is no life!,Daily stressors, tensions and physical habits can create physical and energetic obstacles in our bodies. Without even noticing it our breathing can become gradually more shallow or stilted, we develop unconscious breathing patterns restricting the flow of breath and prana.
When we work on the freeing the breath through pranayama (breathing exercises) we are also working on letting the life energy flow through the body. It has the effect of energizing, relaxing and healing the body, letting everything fall into place. Literally it is an increase and balance of life energy in your system.
The Benefits of Pranayama
Again through a regular and sustained practise of pranayama you can supercharge your whole body! On a physical level by using pranayama techniques we can utilise and strengthen the whole range of our respiratory organs. We explore the lower, middle and upper parts of the breath and regulate the inhalation, retention and exhalation of the breath.A regular pranayama practice can stimulate the parasympathetic system, countering the overstimulation our bodies go through during the Fight or Flight response.
Our breathing patterns are also very closely linked to our emotional states. We will breathe in a different way when we are angry, when we are excited, tired or when we are nervous. However, it works the other way too. We can calm or energize ourselves by changing our breathing patterns. Even by just taking time out to consciously to become more aware of our breath we can help to start to alter our emotional states.
Pranayama techniques have different effects much like different asanas/yoga poses do. Most kinds of pranayama are practised sitting down with an upright spine for example in Cross-legged Pose, Hero’s Pose (on props if needed) or Lotus Pose. The idea is for the breath to be smooth and even and not strained even after breath retention. Some such as Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath) are energizing and detoxing with a fast rhythm and strong abdominal contractions to expel the breath.
Others are balancing or relaxing like Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) or Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing) where inhalations and exhalations are equal length. Practise these and other kinds of pranayama in Ten Days of Pranayama,It is best to practise pranayama in the morning on an empty stomach and in a room with fresh air. Certain kinds of pranayama are not recommended if you have your period, are pregnant or have digestive problems because they involve abdominal contractions with an upward motion. Pranayama with fast rhythms or breath retention should not be practised if you have asthma, heart disease, hypertension or are pregnant. This is not a complete list of precautions, if you have a specific health condition please speak with your health professional or local yoga therapist before practising.