Pranayama: The Art of Healthy Breathing

Submitted by Bonnie Sedan on July 5, 2017
Prana refers to breathing, an important energy source and sign of life. Ayama means control. Taken together as one word, the sanskrit word Pranayama  simply means "breathing control."
Pranayama is probably one of the least talked about subjects in yoga. Yet it is one of the most essential practices of yoga for attaining vitality and wellness. 
 
Prana refers to breathing, an important energy source and sign of life.


Ayama means control.  Taken together as one word, the sanskrit word Pranayama simply means "breathing control."

In yoga, the practice of breathing control is achieved through Pranayama. Gurus refer to it as a means to attain a higher state of awareness. 

Body and Mind

Understanding the principle and practice of Pranayama entails the guidance of a trained guru. It is because this discipline has many types and special fields, where each type is responsible for 
a pranic activity to achieve the need to balance and build a healthy body and mind. Among these are Prana, Apana, Vyan, Udana, and Samana, with Prana and Apana considered the most important. 

The type of Pranayama you might want to pursue may depend on the kind of weakness in your body that you wish to correct. However, it is perfectly alright for any able bodied individual to pursue any breathing type. After all, yoga is a practice that is best taken up as a way of life and not simply as a curative measure. 

The basic principle of Pranayama is anchored on the intake of oxygen through breathing. Incorrect breathing slows down your intake of oxygen, which results in poor metabolism and improper waste disposal. This, in turn, affects the ability of your cells and tissues to regenerate and revitalize the body.  Pranayama helps supply oxygen and remove unwanted toxins, including carbon dioxide, from your body. 

Guidelines for beginners

A healthy person can start with any type of Pranayama. However, people with relatively sedentary lifestyles, like office workers, and those with poor health are advised to start with Asanas before embarking on Pranayama. Asana primarily means to be seated for long periods during meditation. It is an entirely different practice of yoga geared towards poses and postures. 

As mentioned earlier, you need to learn pramayana from a teacher. But in the absence of one, you can start learning on your own by starting very slowly with deep breathing exercises for two to three weeks before embarking on Pranayama.  A simple anulom vilom breathing exercise (or alternate nosetril breathing) is a good start and is effective for healing and relaxation. 

What is important for best results is to have a relaxed state of mind. The practice of Pranayama has no room for shortcuts. There is absolutely no need to rush a certain routine to complete a number of repetitions. If you do not have enough time on a particular day, then simply reduce the number of repetitions.

Life Changer

A healthy supply of oxygen in the blood is important for the following physiological functions:

• Renewing cells and tissues, supplying energy
• Proper working of the endocrine glands
• Energy for brain, heart, and other important organs

With Pranayama, it is possible to increase your oxygen intake five-fold and reduce the number of toxins in your body by another five-fold. These are significant numbers to help you stay youthful, supple, and full of energy at work and at play. 
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