Breathing Exercises After Taking Food

(February 17, 2009)

Can I practice pranayam (breathing exercises) after taking food ?

No it is not wise to practise Pranayama (breathing exercises) immediately after a meal, no matter how light. It is best to wait for at least 2 hours after a light snack and 4 hours after a full meal before starting any breathing exercises. Practising Pranayama (breathing exercises) immediately after a meal could do you more harm than good; and in most instances it definitely has.

The reason for this is that Pranayama (breathing exercises) are mainly an extension of the Yogic Dirga Pranayama or 3-part breath – Diaphragmatic, Thoracic and Clavicular. When your stomach is full it impedes the downward movement of the diaphragm and this, automatically, hinders the full 3-part breath. This being the case, you either wouldn’t be taking a full breath and the required amount of Oxygen in, or in a bid to do so you would be forcing the  diaphragm downwards, pushing the food further down your alimentary canal, prior to full digestion. This would, in turn, encumber the digestive process and lead to a host of other problems, not just a poor, weakened digestion.

Secondly, when your stomach is full of food, by which we mean that the food is still in the process of being digested, it necessarily entails the process of anabolism and catabolism. This means that various digestive enzymes and juices are at work, performing a variety of functions, including getting rid of toxins. But, at such time, the toxins are still very much present in your system; and practising Pranayama (breathing exercises) with toxins freely circulating in the system is more harmful than beneficial to the practitioner. For this reason, ideally speaking, the practise of Pranayama (breathing exercises) is best practiced in the morning on a completely empty stomach after your morning or late in the evenings, just prior to your evening meal, and never in between.

Pranayama (breathing exercises) constitutes the fourth limb of Ashtanga Yoga (the Yoga of Eight Limbs), the previous four being Yamas (Restraints), Niyamas (Observances) and Asanas (Physical Postures). This is, therefore, a rather advanced stage and calls for more care and caution in practice. Besides, Pranayama doesn’t just mean just breathing exercises. True, they constitute a set of breathing exercises, but these are merely tools to a greater and larger end. The end result is harnessing Prana (vital force or bio energy) within the system, increasing it and chanelizing it wherever and whenever required. It is a very intricate science and art of breathing and breath control that is best done under strict supervision and guidance and should be practised alone only after learning it from a well trained, experienced Yoga teacher.

Submitted by A on February 17, 2009 at 12:39

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