Top Five Benefits Of PranayamaFeb 04, 2022
Pranayama is part of the eight limbed path that includes yamas, ninyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Pranayama works with the energy body through simple breath practices that practitioners of any age can do. Pranayama has been gaining popularity over the past decade due to its mainstream use in psychotherapy.
Pranayam is part of Yoga Therapy. Michelle Young, of MVP Yoga Therapy, discusses why pranayama is so beneficial.
"Pranayama leverages the four unique parts of the breath including the inhalation, the retention of breath, the exhalation, and the suspension of the breath. By bringing awareness to the breath and focussing on the exhalation, practitioners can regulate the sympathetic nervous system, slow their heart rate, and quiet their minds. The breath is the only thing that humans can use to manipulate the autonomic functions of the nervous system outside of pharmaceuticals."
Young says that pranayama is taught in conjunction with asana in a traditional studio class, and even in an online setting. In fact, pranayama is a foundational part of the practice of yoga. If the breath is not synchronized to the movements of the body then the practice is little more than aerobics.
There are some simple techniques that practitioners looking to bring in more mind-body tools can integrate into their toolbox. One practice that many people are familiar with is called box breathing. Box breathing breaks the breath into its four parts and then segments each of these parts into equal length. For example, a practitioner might inhale to the count of four, pause to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, and then pause to the count of four.
Box breathing is similar to the traditional ratio breathing technique called krama. In Sanskrit, krama is a step or segment, and many of the four-part breath practices are broken into kramas that are said to have specific effects on the body and mind.
Bees Breath is another pranayama technique that has gained popularity due to its integration in clinical settings. With bees' breath, practitioners cover their eyes and ears and hum; the humming vibrates the pituitary gland and calms the nervous system.
Kapalabathi is another pranayama or kriya, that is used to clean the body and regulate the nervous system. It is practiced by taking passive inhalations through the nose and then forcefully exhaling through the hose by pumping the abdomen. Kapalabathi is an excellent choice for individuals who are looking to increase their focus and their lung capacity, and who do not have any counterindications like pregnancy or heart disease that might prevent them from its benefit.
These are just a few of the pranayama techniques that are being used in yoga studios and in therapists' offices across the country. Now, let's look at the benefits of these practices and how they help to regulate the body and mind.
The first and most impressive benefit of pranayama is its ability to regulate the heart. Pranayama has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure when done consistently.
Next, pranayama increases the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that helps to combat all sorts of ailments from the common cold to cancer. Nitrix oxide helps to boost the immune system and increase the body's ability to heal.
Pranayama helps to provide practitioners with a focal point for concentration. They can focus on their breath, or breath awareness, which helps them to find states of meditation.
Pranayama helps to tone the vagal nerve. The vagal nerve is part of our proprioceptive system and it alerts our unconscious of dancer or safety. Pranayama helps to tone and regulate the vagus nerve, especially in trauma survivors.
Pranayama also helps to regulate emotions. When we are activated we tend to lose control of our emotions. Pranayama helps us. to anchor in the present moment and be present.
Pranayama is a useful tool for yoga practitioners and laymen alike. It can be used anywhere under almost any circumstances. The next time you're feeling stressed, try a short pranayama practice and notice how it makes you feel.