Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. One of the Five Principles of Yoga is Pranayama or Breathing Exercise which promotes proper breathing. From a Yogic point of view, proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama and Yoga asanas goes hand in hand. The union of these two Yogic Principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body.
Yoga breathing, or Pranayama, is the science of breath control. It consists of series of exercises especially intended to meet the body's needs and keep it in vibrant health. Pranayama comes from the following words:
Prana - "life force" or "life energy
Yama - "discipline" or "control"
Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"
When we focus on the breath, we are listening to and contemplating the true nature of consciousness as it is spoken through the breath. Breathing is therefore more than a simple physical action each breath has an underlying significance and a particular “coded message”. If you can realize the true reality of the breath, you can realize the atma or soul. It is the mechanics of respiration that opens up the space for pranic energy and for the spread of consciousness.
In our respiration process, we breathe in or inhale oxygen into our body, going through our body systems in a form of energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and take away all toxic wastes from our body. Through the practice of Pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Absorbing prana through breath control links our body, mind, and spirit.
Because of the daily work, family, or financial pressures, we tend to ignore our breathing. Thus, it tends to be fast and shallow. The use of only a fraction of your lungs results to lack of oxygen and may lead to different complications. Heart diseases, sleep disorders, and fatigue are some of the effects of oxygen starvation. Therefore, the negative energy of being restless and troublesome leads to lesser prana inside the body. By practicing deep and systematic breathing through Pranayama, we can re-energize our body.
Regular practice of yogic breathing has been shown to increase yogic breathing. This raises the vitality of the body and efficiency of the bodily functions. Breathing with the awareness of the heart is a way of entering the silence of the heart, a moment of inner calmness and joy, and steadiness of mind. You will become established in your own natural inner silence.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We became used to breathing from our chest, using only a fraction of the lungs, not knowing that this unhealthy and unnatural way of inhaling may lead to several complications. With yoga breathing, we increase the capacity of our lungs, bringing more oxygen supply to the body to function well. We learn how to breathe slowly and deeply - the right way.
Pranayama reduces the toxins and body wastes from within our body. It prevents one from acquiring diseases.
Pranayama helps in one's digestion. With the proper way of breathing, one's metabolism and health condition will start to improve.
Pranayama develops our concentration and focus. It fights away stress and relaxes the body. Controlling one's breathing also results to serenity and peace of mind.
Pranayama offers a better self-control. Through concentration, one can better handle temper and reactions. Mind can function clearly, avoiding arguments and wrong decisions. Moreover, self-control also involves control over one's physical body.
Pranayama leads to spiritual journey through a relaxed body and mind.
*It is worth noting that Pranayama should not be forced and done without proper preparation. It is part of a process in yoga. Breath control is a spiritual practice of cleansing the mind and body which should be done appropriately and with proper guidance and preparation.
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