Dr Malini Yugendran
Auckland, February 24, 2023
Pranayama is an essential component of Yoga, which involves regulating the breath to manage the flow of energy through the body.
It is derived from the Sanskrit words “prana” meaning life force and “ayama” meaning control. “The practice of pranayama has been a part of Yoga for centuries and is known to offer numerous physical and mental health benefits,” said Mangalagowri Huchaiah a Yoga teacher based in Auckland.
Importance of Pranayama in Yoga
Pranayama is the fourth of the Eight Limbs of Yoga but is deemed just as important as asana, or the physical postures.
According to the Vietnamese Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” Pranayama is a technique used in Yoga to control the breath and achieve a greater sense of clarity, focus, and inner peace.
B.K.S. Iyengar, an Indian Yoga teacher and author, believes that pranayama is “the link between the mental and physical disciplines of Yoga.” Studies reveal that through pranayama, one can calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote emotional well-being.
Different Pranayama Techniques
There are various pranayama techniques, each with its unique benefits. Here are some of the most common pranayama techniques:
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing): This breathing technique involves breathing through alternate nostrils. According to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2012, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama helps to reduce anxiety and stress.
Kapalbhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breathing): This breathing technique involves rapid exhalations and passive inhalations. It helps to increase the oxygen supply to the brain. A study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2018 found that Kapalbhati Pranayama helped to improve cognitive performance and reduce anxiety in healthy individuals. Ms Huchaiah said, “this is the best form of pranayama for cold climates as it helps to clear the nasal passages, lungs and the mind.”
Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath): This breathing technique involves making a humming sound while exhaling. According to a study conducted in 2018, Bhramari Pranayama helped to reduce stress and improve sleep quality in college students.
Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath): This breathing technique involves making a hissing sound while breathing. It helps to increase the oxygen supply to the body.
Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breathing), is another powerful tool that can help clear the mind and relax the body. This technique involves inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding the exhale for another four counts.
Dirgha Pranayama (Three-Part Breath), “this is the best form for beginners. It involves inhalation, followed by a pause and a deep exhalation which helps in diaphragmatic breathing, breath awareness and lung capacity. It can be performed with both nostrils.” said Ms Huchaiah.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama practice has been shown to have numerous benefits.
A 2014 systematic review in the Journal of Hypertension found that it can significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Studies such as a 2017 randomised controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology have also demonstrated that pranayama can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in those with mild-to-moderate depression. Furthermore, a 2016 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that pranayama can reduce inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Resources for Learning Pranayama Techniques
There are many resources available to help you learn pranayama techniques. Here are some resources:
Gaia: This website provides access to various pranayama videos and articles, including beginner-friendly pranayama techniques.
The Art of Living: This website offers guided pranayama sessions, as well as articles and videos on pranayama and other breathing techniques.
Yoga International: This website offers articles and videos on various pranayama techniques, including tips on how to practice them safely.
Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.