The term “Pranayama” is made of two Sanskrit words “Prana” and “Yama”. Prana is the vital life driving force behind all living beings, present in humans in the form of Vayu or winds. It regulates and fuels all the bodily functions. And “yama” means control or regulation.
Here are 11 Beautiful Beautiful Benefits of Pranayama.
1. Respiratory Problems
Practising pranayama regularly is great for the lungs. It is a scientific and efficient workout for the muscles of the lungs. The rhythmic expansion and contraction of the respiratory muscles strengthens them. Fast breathing pranayama like kapalbhati and bhastrika improves lung function. This decreases the chance of getting lung diseases.
2. Weight loss
Vishuddha Chakra is present in the thyroid region and when a proper flow of Prana goes through its Sushumna Nadi, it helps to speed up your metabolism and helps lose weight. It also helps to keep junk food or sugar cravings at bay, thus, ensuring that you are less likely to consume comfort food and opt for healthy meals.
3. Anti-aging and glowing skin
Pranayama can be a natural detox to get glowing skin. According to the classical yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pranayama is a purification process for our body at several levels and layers. Skin, the largest organ in our body, breathes oxygen to stay fresh and glowing. Practicing slow and deep pranayama allows the lungs to flush excess carbon dioxide from our body and replaces it with a rich supply of cell-energising oxygen.
Pranayama combined with Mudras and bandhas has a more refreshing effect on the skin. This process of oxygenation increases moisture in the skin and reduces lines, wrinkles and other ageing symptoms. The detoxification of blood helps to prevent various skin problems. Bhramari and Bhastrika pranayama are especially beneficial for this purpose. It increases replication of stem cells which repairs dead and damaged tissues quickly.
The lymphatic system of the body improves. Thus, antibody proliferation can occur quickly due to which minute infection can easily be resisted by the body’s immune system. Plus, the bacteria cannot proliferate easily and the body can function well. Pranayama is an effective yoga practice to boost immune system efficiency. It comprises diaphragmatic breathing exercises which involve the whole digestive system that is home to almost 80% of immune tissue.
Practising deep pranayama breathing can sharpen the body’s immune response. Stress affects the immune system’s ability to provide resistance against infection and toxins. Pranayama reduces stress and therefore boosts the immune system. Through pranayama, we send a signal to the brain that it’s time to relax and thus it activates the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ nervous system.
5. Central nervous system- the brain
It’s a natural tendency to take deep breaths in a stressful situation. Practicing belly breathing makes the diaphragm actively move air in and out of the lungs. Pranayama calms down the sympathetic nervous system– the part of the nervous system which induces a stress response, and therefore you feel calmer almost immediately.
Pranayama provides a fresh flow of oxygen into your body and brain which helps calm your nerves and improve vital organ functions. It preserves and increases the grey matter of the brain, improves stem cell function. It helps to calm us by improving the parasympathetic supply over sympathetic activity, acetylcholine is released in a huge amount which has a positive effect on the brain.
Fast pranayama like Kapalabhati, Bhastrika and Kukkriya pranayama and slow pranayamas like Nadishodhana, Pranava and Savitri pranayama have been proved to be beneficial in reducing the stress levels.
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6. Cardiovascular diseases
It helps bring heart rate down to a normal one. Due to the parasympathetic activation and also a proper pulmonary circulation the heart pumps at a required speed. It doesn’t lead free radicals to accumulate, thus, destruction of blood vessel slows down which prevents heart diseases.
7. Balancing hormones
Regularly Pranayama helps to the hypothalamus and the pineal gland to function properly which in turn balances the hormonal cycle in the body. Hormones control a lot of vital functions in the body and also affect our emotions. Thus, balanced hormones help in regulated and efficient body functions allowing us to feel good. Our emotional responses are also improved.
8. Improves concentration
Slow, deep breaths help the mind to focus on the present moment. Pranayama is an excellent tool in Yoga to improve concentration and memory. The meditative quality of bringing the attention inward on the sound of breathing and following different styles and patterns makes it easier for the mind chatter to quiet down. It also increases mindfulness. Practicing pranayama stimulates the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain which is responsible for thinking and attention. Studies have shown that breath awareness significantly improves concentration. Nadi shodhana is particularly helpful for this purpose.
9. Lowers high blood pressure
Pranayama is a boon for people suffering from hypertension. Slow pranayama techniques like Bhramari Pranayama, Anulom Vilom, Sitali pranayama are effective. They send a signal to brain for relaxation and have cooling and calming effect on both body and mind. The impact on nervous system is such that the heart rate decreases. Thus, it reduces high blood pressure.
10. Improves digestion
Pranayama practice can optimize digestion by increasing the oxygen supply to the gut. The increased oxygen to the gut ensures a healthy blood flow and strengthens the intestines resulting in better digestion and assimilation of food. Practicing slow diaphragmatic breathing like dirgha pranayama or belly breath before a meal (at least 3 hours before) is like a gentle massage for the internal digestive organs and activates those muscles for the next food intake.
The whole body is connected. So, improved sleep quality, better stress management and a boosted immune system come together to help the digestive system work effectively. Regular pranayama practice can also aid with gastrointestinal diseases or syndromes such as acid reflux, etc. And as it has shown to help regulate the secretion of gastric acid and digestive enzymes. Pranayama also eases out the excretion part of the digestion process by getting rid of subtle metabolic wastes from the body through breathing.
11. Promotes better sleep
Breath practice helps slow down the heart rate by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. It helps the body and mind to unwind which in turn promotes better sleep. A study suggests that pranayama exercises can considerably decrease snoring and daytime sleepiness. It is also beneficial for people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).
According to a study, bedtime pranayama prepares the body and mind for a good night’s rest. It instantly lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It helps clear the mind from workplace negativity, tension, anxiety or piled up emotions that may disrupt the sleep cycle. Pranayama should only be practiced at night after a gap of minimum 2 hours after having a meal. Start with 5 minutes of practise of deep abdominal breathing, also called Dirgha pranayama and then bhrahmari pranayama.
Pranayama, or breath control, is an important branch of yoga. Its practice is blended with yoga postures and meditation. The goal of pranayama is to reinforce the connection between your body and mind. According to research, pranayama can stimulate relaxation and mindfulness. It’s also proven to support various facets of physical health, including lung function, blood pressure, and brain function. It’s important to learn the right way of practicing pranayama from a yoga class or a qualified teacher to reap the full benefits and avoid any problems.
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