If you’re a regular practitioner of yoga, you probably know that pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath (coming from ‘prana’ which means breath, our life force, while ‘Ayama’ means to extend). It’s a major part of practicing yoga. While for many people living in the Western world, yoga is primarily a way of building up physical fitness, pranayama is a huge aspect of its spiritual quality. Pranayama, therefore, is very important to yoga; it can be especially beneficial during stressful times. It helps to channel internal stores of ‘pranic’ energy and to control that energy. It can help you gain not just physical relaxation but also a kind of mental clarity.
We all have busy days, especially women. From doing chores around the house to running to work and getting the kids to school, life can be very exhausting and it can be difficult to find time for yourself and to be able to connect with your own breath in a way that is conscious. Pranayama can actually improve your life in lots of small ways and make it easier for you to juggle life and work, both.
It keeps you calm
Pranayama usually involves the process of playing very close attention to your breath. As human beings, our minds are very messy and all over the place. We’re constantly thinking of this person or that thing that we have to go to. However when you focus entirely on your energy that is within your body, manifested as breath, you give yourself up to it and you try to detach yourself from everything else that is going on around you. It gives you a singular thing to focus on and you become aware of something which you do naturally, every day (breathe), but that you never focussed on before as you’re doing now. It allows your mind to calm itself and stop moving in a hundred different directions. When you finish the pranayama, you’ll feel much more at peace. Your energy levels will also be higher after you’ve finished pranayama.
It’s a de-stressor
Once you are able to start setting aside time to practice pranayama every day, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. It’s a natural way to release the toxins from your body, but this also includes stressors. You can sit down or lie down when you do a pranayama, so there is no physical movement, and you can embrace the quiet. If you do it regularly, you start to feel more in control of yourself even as you are letting your breath take its course. You will feel more in touch with your rational side once you’re done, and will be able to view your problems more clearly and with less trepidation and worry.
It has a ton of health benefits
Pranayama actually has a lot of benefits for your long-term health, although you must be willing to commit to it and do it regularly. It opens up your nasal passages and cleanses them to a certain extent, you can breathe very freely. It helps to keep your lungs and your respiratory system in good shape. Your body becomes more flexible and weight issues might become more manageable because it stabilizes your appetite. It improves your skin over time. All in all, it’s a very holistic approach to improving your health, both physical and mental.
Pranayamas are of various kinds, like kapalabhati (which helps with abdominal breathing) and nadi shodhana (which is alternate nose breathing and is supposed to be particularly good for people who get very anxious). Yoga experts warn that in the beginning pranayama can seem dull and boring; like the least exciting part of yoga. People are more interested in physical exercise. But over time, its benefits are truly brilliant. You have to keep at it to see the results.
Of course, you can’t expect pranayama to solve all your problems. You have to commit to yoga and maintain a healthy diet and a good lifestyle, and make sure you aren’t overworking yourself. You have to rely on a support system of friends and family. However, pranayamas can go a long way towards making you more stable, both physically and mentally.