Pranayama, or yoga breathing, is the study of breath control, and is one of the central pillars of yoga.
Almost all styles combine three elements:
- Asanas - these are the poses or positions that most people are familiar with
- Pranayama - yoga breathing
- Meditation - a period of deep relaxation that emphasises the spiritual side
Yoga breathing consists of a series of exercises designed to teach breath control and keep the body in vibrant health.
Pranayama comes from the following words:
- Prana - "life force" or "life energy"
- Yama - "discipline" or "control"
- Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"
This practice opens up the inner life force and helps prepare practitioners for the meditation process. Although breathing is essential for life, we rarely pay attention to it. Pranayama addresses this by teaching you to breathe slowly and deeply. There are many benefits to the practice:
- Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. Most people breathe from the chest, using only a fraction of the lungs. Pranayama teaches a full breath that will increase the capacity of the lungs.
- Deep breathing brings more oxygen to the body, helping to reduce toxins and body wastes. It thus has a role to play in disease prevention.
- The concentration and focus required for Pranayama is very relaxing. The result is to relax the body and produce a peaceful state of mind.
Regular practice of this technique will leave you feeling calmer and more relaxed throughout your day.