When it comes to practicing yoga, one of the most important aspects to consider is breathing. Without complete control over your breathing, you will fail to achieve a level of balance that is needed to receive optimal results from your yoga sessions.
This is why a majority of those who practice and preach yoga actively consider pranayama as one of the most important parts of the yoga practice. Even though it is heavily regarded as one of the most important aspects of yoga itself, a lot of people fail to place enough emphasis on it as something that needs to be practiced regularly.
Learning pranayama can offer significant improvements to not only your yoga sessions but also to your life in various ways. Outlined below are some of the reasons to practice pranayama, benefits of pranayama, and more information about it.
What Is Pranayama?
Pranayama is essentially a part of the yoga system which is meant to teach you the art of breathing. There are different forms of it that all have the same essential end goal which is to teach different methods of mindful breathing. While practicing it, each breath should be mindfully inhaled and exhaled. Thus, it can really help you place much more importance on your breathing and can result in a wide range of health benefits.
Types of Pranayama
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This particular type of pranayama breathing is completed by breathing directly through one of the nostrils of the nose while alternating each breath.
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In order to conduct this breathing practice, sit down in a comfortable position. Then, begin by breathing through your left nostril and alternate to the right nostril. While breathing, close the opposite nostril by using your right thumb and close the left nostril with your ring and pinky finger. Throughout the entire breathing practice, your mouth will be fully closed, and you will not be using it for breathing in nor out.
When you breathe in through either the right or left nostril, you will then close it with the correct finger and you will exhale through the opposite nostril.
This is also known as a three-part breath, and it is a good option for those who new to yoga breathing. Throughout this practice, the goal is to completely fill your lungs with air, feeling it reach your abdomen, diaphragm, and chest.
Once that is completed, you will exhale completely. The purpose of this type of breathing practice is to put your mind in a more relaxed state and ensure that you are able to completely fill your lungs with oxygen while removing all possible carbon dioxide.
Reasons to Practice Pranayama
One of the most important reasons you’ll want to consider practicing pranayama is due to the potential impact that it may be able to have on your mood. By practicing pranayama, you’ll have an important tool for quickly stabilizing your mood and relaxing your body.
Because you are going to be able to have a complete focus on your breathing during this practice, it is going to allow you to really concentrate on the mind-body connection. The level of stillness that you’ll experience during the sessions can really enhance your ability to achieve the highest level of mindfulness.
Serves as a Form of Meditation
Pranayama can offer a lot of the benefits that you would be able to experience from stand-alone meditation. Because of this, you could potentially use the practice as a replacement for regular meditation, which is going to provide an alternative that you will be able to use in your routine. By being able to have full control over your breath and manipulate your breathing, you’ll be able to assist yourself in entering a meditative state, which has many benefits of its own.
Benefits of Pranayama
Reduces Stress Levels
Studies have shown that this type of breathing practice can, in fact, lower stress and anxiety levels.1 As mentioned previously, this type of breathing practice can improve your body’s ability to handle and deal with stress by putting your body into a natural state of relaxation. Because it can lower your body’s natural stress response, it is going to be an effective way to quell rampant levels of cortisol in your body.
Maintains Healthy Blood Pressure
Another significant benefit that you might be able to reap from trying this breathing practice is the ability to maintain healthy blood pressure. In fact, studies have confirmed that this type of yoga practice can effectively decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
Improves Concentration and Memory
Because you will be boosting the natural oxygen supply to the brain during this practice, it is going to allow the brain to function optimally. Studies have shown that short-term stress can impair brain cell communication and can negatively impact both memory and learning.2
When Should You Practice or Avoid Pranayama?
This is one of the better breathing exercises that you should start your day off with. One of the reasons you want to consider starting your day off with this type of breathing exercise is due to the fact that it can put you in a much better state of being. Along with this, it can help you relax, which can put you in a better mental state as you take on your day.
While this type of yoga or breathing practice might be beneficial for a lot of people, it might not be entirely appropriate for everyone in general. Those who suffer from any sort of heart condition should avoid it. Along with this, elderly individuals or those who have limited mobility might want to avoid it as well. As with anything, you should talk to your doctor prior to implementing any significant lifestyle change if you have pre-existing conditions.
Proper breathing and breathing practice like pranayama are capable of helping trick the body and mind into a parasympathetic state, which is a complete state of relaxation. Through this practice, you train yourself to use the entire range of your breathing capabilities in order to experience full, engaging, and mindful breathing.
Overall, there are many reasons why you may want to consider practicing pranayama. It is easily one of the better breathing practices that you can implement in your daily life.
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