PRANAYAMA, THE BREATH OF LIFE:
Pranayama are breathing exercises developed by the ancient yogis for purification. Prana translates into “life force energy” and Yama translates into “control or mastery of”. Thus, Pranyama is used to control, cultivate, and modify the Prana in the body. Prana is taken in through the air we breathe, and since the Pranayama exercises increase the amount of air we take in, they also increase our intake of Prana.
Breathing is one of the few autonomic functions of the body that we may also control. The breath is seen as an important link between our body, our mind, and our spirit – moving from the purely physical realm, to the mental, to the spiritual.
For all Pranayama (except Kapalabhati), the breath is slow and steady, breathed in and out of the nose and down into the belly. Always sit with a straight spine and a relaxed body. While you are practicing Pranayama, let go of any thoughts by focusing on the breathing involved with the Pranayama. Life Energy is called prana (prah-nah). In sanskrit, the word for breath is the same as the word for life – prana. The first thing you do as you enter this world is to inhale. Your last act in this life is to exhale. When prana leaves the body, we die. The breath is a metaphor for life energy.
Before commencing with these programs, or any other listed on this website, please consult your family doctor. Once approval received, I recommend finding an Ayurvedic Centre in your community.
1. Blow your nose, clearing your nostrils as much as possible before beginning
2. Begin practicing pranayama in a room-temperature (68 degrees Farenheit) environment. Extremely cold or hot air can affect your health adversely. Also, please do this in FRESH air – no smoke, chemicals, or other harmful elements in your environment. Air will be pulled more deeply into your lungs, and it need to be clean and fresh.
3. Breath through the nostrils only, unless otherwise specified.
4. The fluidity of your breath is the priority – if your breath begins to be choppy or uneven, stop what you are doing and allow your breath to return to its own, natural rhythm.
5. If you begin to feel faint, dizzy, flushed, or light-headed, stop what you are doing, and allow your breath to return to its own natural rhythm. This is a result of the increased oxygen levels in the body, which your body may not be accustomed to. You can increase your pranayama practice and use of oxygen gradually.
In most people, the bottom 1/3 of our lungs is “dead space.” We breath so shallowly, we hardly use this 1/3 at all. For individuals with respiratory concerns, learning to breath into the healthy, undamaged bottom 1/3 of the lungs, where there is pink healthy tissue to absorb oxygen, can be beneficial. Check with your doctor first!
Provide sufficient oxygen for the functioning of every cell in our body. Without sufficient oxygen, we cannot metabolize food properly, and nutrients are wasted (take time to breath deeply between your bites of food during mealtimes – aids digestion in many ways)
Increases the rate of metabolism (to aid with weight loss) – also Agni, the digestive fire, is extremely important in Ayurveda (Eastern Medicinal Branch of Yoga) – having a healthy digestion will improve your entire state of health – body and mind
Reduce stress – when encountering stress, one of our first responses is to hold the breath, or breath very shallowly. This is a “fight or flight”, primitive response. Learning to consciously focus on deep breathing relaxes the body and calms the mind, and keeps the oxygen flowing, improving our health!
Better emotional control and equilibrium – As a common remedy for stress, we use the expression ” take a deep breath.”
Breathing actually allows us to respond to events more clearly, rationally, and calmly by supplying the brain with ample oxygen. A lack of oxygen can cause lack of concentration and emotional unbalance.
Remove waste products such as Carbon Dioxide and other toxic gases from the body, so they do not remain in the blood stream – this exchange in done through the alvioli in the lungs
Open the Nadis and remove blockages to energy flow in the body
Strengthen and gain control of the diaphragm – improving abdominal tone, singing capacity, and health.
Learning healthy breathing techniques benefits the following conditions: asthma, allergies, high or low blood pressure, stress-related heart conditions, hyperactivity, insomnia, chronic pain, some psychological conditions, metabolic and endocrine imbalances.
Your body needs a certain amount of Carbon Dioxide to maintain the appropriate Acidity/Alkalinity levels for your blood. Learning to breath deeply and smoothly can ensure that you maintain appropriate levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.