Yoga Breathing Exercises (Pranayama) – Its Benefits
Yoga evolved in ancient India more than 4000 years back. The word “Yoga” originates from the Sanskrit language and means, to join or integrate, or simply union. The meaning of Yoga is union of the body, mind and spirit with truth. Yoga encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life.
In spite of all its greatness and goodness though, Yoga was never practised on a large scale in India in the sense that the common people were not in its ambit. It is only in the last decade or so that Yoga has spread among the masses, thanks to Yoga Gurus like Baba Ramdev and literally tens of millions of people in India and elsewhere are coming within its fold and benefitting from it in a very real sense. You just speak with anyone who practises yoga and they will quickly extoll an endless list of its benefits and sing its praise. Housewives, businessmen, sportspeople, teenagers and the aged are all practising a variety of yoga asanas (postures), dhyana (meditation) and pranayama (breathing exercises). For many, yoga becomes a way of life – often giving a more spiritual side to their lives.
The modern world scenario with its stressful life and cut-throat competition is providing a very fertile ground for the growth and spread of Yoga. Medical practitioners always questioned the efficacy of Yoga, but now it is being prescribed even by doctors for health ailments, as a stress reliever and to complement other fitness programs. There are numerous documented cases of yoga relieving or curing serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, respiratory illnesses like asthma, diabetes, bloodpressure, etc.
The sphere of Yoga is very very big. However, for the common man practising Yoga, the problem is of shortage of time because of which he cannot go into all aspects of Yoga. So two aspects become very important for him for good health, physical fitness, flexibility and mental relaxation, viz namely asanas (physical exercise) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Here, I will concentrate on Pranayama.
As you all know, oxygen is the supreme necessity for our bodies and without it we cannot survive perhaps even for a couple of minutes. There is almost unlimited oxygen all around us. But we do not know how to get its benefits fully as we never utilize our full lung capacity. Consequently our body is sort of starved of oxygen. Pranayama is a technique to govern the breathing process. Breathing is normally an unconscious process. Through Pranayama, a person learns to consciously govern the breath to bring harmony into the body, mind and spirit. Regular breathing exercises tremendously increase the capacity to inhale and absorb life-giving oxygen. The capacity of the lungs even during unconscious breathing increases. There are four breathing exercises which are particularly helpful:
1) BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA: In this you repeatedly breathe in to the full capacity of your lungs and then breathe out completely. Should be done for minimum 2 minutes; maximum is 5 minutes
Helps heart, lungs, brain, nervous system, and in migraine, depression, paralysis, etc.
2) KAPALBHATI PRANAYAMA: In this breathing exercise, you exhale completely and with force while pulling in your abdomen.
Inhaling is done automatically and in a normal manner. Should be repeated 30 times, maximum 10 minutes.
Helps in diabetes, constipation, gastric problems, hepatitis B, obesity, cholesterol, asthma, snoring and even in cancer and AIDS.
3) ANULOMA VILOMA PRANAYAMA: This pranayama is slightly more complicated but the benefits are enormous. (a) Close your right nasal orifice with your thumb and breathe in deeply with your left nose. (b) Now open the right nose, close the left nose with middle and ring fingers, and breathe out completely with your right nose. (c) Next, breathe in deeply with the right nose, close the right nose with your thumb, and breathe out completely with the left nose. Start again with (a), then move onto (b) then (c).
Repeat for at least 10 minutes.
Helps in heart, high blood pressure, heart blockages, arthritis, migraine, depression, neural system, paralysis, asthma, sinus, allergy, Parkinson’s disease, etc
4) BHRAMARI PRANAYAMA: Here you close your ears with thumbs, keep index fingers on your forehead and remaining three fingers should cover both eyes. Breathe in deeply and then breathe out through the nose while making a humming sound like a honey bee. Should be done seven to ten times.
Helps in cases of tension, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart, heart blockages, paralysis, migraine pain, etc. Improves concentration and confidence.
Now let us summarise the benefits that accrue if a person does Pranayama every morning (or evening) for a period of 20 to 25 minutes
-It increases lung capacity and improves breathing efficiency,
-It improves circulation, helps normalize blood pressure and improves cardiovascular efficiency,
-It boosts the immune system and enhances immunity,
-It increases energy levels and gives lots of positive energy,
-It strengthens and tones the nervous system,
-It combats anxiety and depression and improves sleep,
-It improves digestion and excretory functions,
-It provides massage to the internal organs, stimulates the glands and enhances endocrine functions,
-It normalizes body weight and provides great conditioning for weight loss,
and lastly it improves skin tone and complexion
ARE YOU NOT DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF THE BENEFITS OF YOGA AND PRANAYAMA?