Pranayama: More than just Breath?

by

Dr Reetu Verma

Breathwork is a considered as a ‘new age term’.  It is all about consciously controlling your flow of breath allowing it to be a bridge between your body and mind. Breathing practices is said to influence a person’s mental, emotional, or physical state, with a therapeutic effect.[1]

Breathwork is the synonymous with the word ‘pranayama’ which is used extensively in yoga. Asanas (physical postures) and Pranayama (breathwork) are two of the most popular practices that are part of the modern age yoga classes.

However, pranayama is more than just breath. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life force and “ayama” translates to expansion.

Pranayama can be considered as the art of controlling, lengthening, or expanding your breath.

You may be asking yourself why is this important? Well put it simply pranayama acts as a natural stressbuster.

  • allows you to shift from the parasympathetic nervous system (our “flight/fight” nervous system) into the peace and safety of the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • pranayama helps calm our body and mind through its effect on parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest/ relax” system), reducing stress and giving you a feeling of calm.
  • it also works on our subtle energy body. Yes, the regular practice of pranayama is said to have a direct connection with the subtle energy body.

 Important to note here that the energy we carry affects our breathing patterns and vice-versa. When under stress and feeling anxious, your breathing becomes short and shallow, so by being aware of your breath, you can consciously change your state.

What I am saying here is that the various breathing techniques with awareness can influence the flow and balance of energy within the body, calming both your mind and body.

Pranayama isn’t just ancient wisdom; it is backed up by science and it is not just breathing; it’s a mental health tool.

Benefits and practical applications of pranayama:

  • increases energy levels
  • eases body’s response to stress
  • reduces anxiety and depression
  • improves emotional regulation
  • helps improve immunity
  • helps you sleep better
  • eases the effects of PTSD
  • stress management and relaxation
  • enhancing mental clarity and focus
  • emotional resilience and well-being

In summary, we can say the ancient practice of pranayama brings together age-old wisdom, backed by modern scientific evidence, making it a valuable tool for enhancing your mental health.

“Pranayama, more than air’s embrace, 

A journey inward, to a sacred space.”

 

 featured image by Jared Rice on Unsplash

 

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breathwork_(New_Age)

“Can you really use your breath to reduce anxiety?”  https://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/article/breathing-exercises-for-stress

Young JS, Cashwell CS, Giordano AL (2010). “Breathwork as a therapeutic modality: an overview for counselors”. Counseling and Values. 55 (1):113 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2161-007X.2010.tb00025.x

https://www.ayurveda-awareness.com.au/breath-mind-and-spirit-power-of-pranayama-for-well-being/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/