Pranayama: The breath.
What is Pranayama?
In Yogi talk, Prana = Life force and Ayama = to extend. So together, Pranayama means controlling the breath.
Breathing is essential to us all. We can go weeks without food and days without water, but we cannot survive several minutes without oxygen.
Benefits of Pranayama
Improves Blood Circulation
The breath allows fresh oxygenated blood to travel from the lungs to the heart and the rest of the body.
Increases Life Span
Yogis believe that the length of your life depends on your breathing rate. As you lower your breathing rate, you can increase your life span!
Your heart is one of the most hardworking muscles that you have, pumping blood non stop throughout your body. By having enough oxygen in your blood means that more oxygen can be found in the heart's muscle.
Improves Mental Health
Practicing Pranayama allows you to control the fluctuations of the mind. It will help you to find better concentration, experience inner peace, get better sleep, better memory, as well as an overall lightness of the body.
There are many breathing techniques in Yoga and once you start to master the breath, you will have control over your thoughts and emotions. Every thought can change the rhythm of your breath.
Have you noticed when you are stressed, your breath becomes fast and irregular and your mind wanders off to a million places? Well, once you master the art of breathing you are able to steady the breath and calm the mind.
Here is one Pranayama technique which I love to use in my classes. It helps to relax the mind and release accumulated tension.
Alternate nostril breath = Nadi Shodhana
1. Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your spine long, shoulders relaxed and a gentle smile on your face.
2. Place your left hand on your left knee. 3. Place your index finger and middle finger of the right hand on your eyebrow centre.
4. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
5. Now breathe in from the left nostril. 6. Close the left nostril with the ring finger. Remove the right thumb from the right nostril and breath out completely.
7. Breathe in from the right nostril. Then close the right nostril and exhale out the left.
8. This is one complete breath cycle. Do this 5 times. 9. After each exhalation remember to breath in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. 10. Keep your eyes closed throughout the practice and take long, deep, smooth & effortless breaths.