What is Pranayama breathing?
Pranayama is a vedic science for expanding and channeling the life force, through the practice of breathing exercises. Pranayama is a sanskrit word meaning ” controlling or expanding the life force”. Prana means “fundamental life force”, Ayama is described as “expansion” and Yama is known as “control”. This in depth vedic science is included as one of the 8 limbs of yoga.
One begins to understand Prana by creating awareness around the quality of the breath. When the breath is shallow, strained or erratic the mind and body is experiencing stress, anxiety, and/or tension. When the breath is rhythmic and full we have an abundance of energy and our mind gains a sense of clarity and ease. By bringing a state of balance to the breath we can nourish our vitality and prepare the mind to turn inward. My teacher Dr. Vasant Lad of the Ayurvedic Institute beautifully teaches that despite how we are feeling, we can always go to our breath, it is our best friend, it is always with us from the time of birth till the time of death. Adopting the practice of full deep yogic breaths during times of anxiety and tension has brought me a sense of serenity. The experience of expanding the life force can heal and purify our physical, psychological and spiritual bodies.
The diaphragm is the mover of the breath, a voluntary and involuntary muscle that responds to conscious and unconscious commands. By using the diaphragm consciously we gain control of of the conscious and unconscious processes directed by our prana. This can help dissolve stagnant patterns in the mind and direct the energy flow to regulate the body’s physiological functions.
Pranayama breathing benefits:
- Rejuvenates and calms nervous system
- Increases concentration and mental clarity
- Balances right and left hemispheres of the brain.
- Helps to regulate hormones
- Supports clear and balanced respiratory channels
Pranayama is a broad science with many techniques, some very simple, and others more complex and taking years of practice to cultivate. Depending on the desired effect, specific practices are recommended. Pranayama can be heating, cooling, stimulating, calming, regulating, and ultimately teaches one how to control their prana. Because these practices are so varied and powerful it is important to study with an experienced teacher who can safely guide your practice. In retreat, instruction is given in a serene setting, creating a simple clear experience to establish your home practice.