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What is Pranayama?

Cleanse the body and mind
by Omved

When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still."-Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Breathing is one of the most important functions of life. Pranayama is an ancient yogic practice that deals with the techniques of controlling the breathing. It consists of a series of breathing exercises and techniques that work in harmony to keep the body in the best of health.

Pranayama comes from the following words:

  • Prana - "life force" or "life energy"
  • Yama - "discipline" or "control"
  • Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"

A human body inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. When you practise pranayama, you inhale more oxygen that goes into your bloodstream and the brain. When we exhale carbon dioxide, it tends to take away some toxic wastes from our body.

Benefits of Pranayama

Practising pranayama helps to improve overall health and helps the organs of the body to function better. When one practices the pranayama properly, they become more aware of their breath. Pranayama has its own benefits. We've listed a few for you:

  • Improves the rate of breathing
  • Removes the toxins from the body
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves concentration and focus
  • Promotes relaxation and helps to de-stress the tired body and mind with regular breathing
  • Helps the body get rid of excessive fat and weight
  • Cures digestive system related problems
  • Enhances the functioning of several organs; that include intestines, pancreas, lungs, heart, kidneys and the diaphragm.
  • Reduces blood pressure because practising pranayamahelps to relax the body and soothe the nerves.

Trivia: Did you know that the ancient sages practised pranayama as a preparation in the meditation process?

The three stages of Pranayama

These are the three stages of Pranayama:

  • Arambha:  is the starting stage, where one is aware of the Pranayama
  • Parichay: is the stage where the yogi is introduced to the knowledge of Pranayama
  • Nispattiis:  the stage where the yogi with continuous practice of pranayama goes beyond his physical body and unites with the supreme one

Pranayama is a spiritual practice that helps to cleanse the body and mind and it is a part of a larger process in yoga. It has to be followed keeping in mind certain preparations, guidance and techniques.

Things to keep in mind when you start practising pranayama

  • Consult with your doctor before starting with pranayama. Check for conditions that could be aggravated due to pranayama. If such a case exists then, you may have to modify or skip some of the pranayama exercises.
  • If you have a cold, chances are that you may not be able to complete the exercises because a stuffy nose will not allow you to breathe properly.
  • Take breaks often and do exercises that are the most comfortable for you. If any of the pranayama exercises make you feel uncomfortable or light-headed, stop the exercise immediately.
  • Pranayama is best practised in the mornings. You need to sit in a comfortable position keeping your neck and back straight. Relax your stomach muscles when you are performing the breathing exercises.
Once you reach a comfort level, you will be able to perform pranayama with ease.

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Category: Asanas & Fitness | Pranayam & the Breath

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