What Is Pranayama?
Pranayama is the name for breathing techniques in yoga. Pranayama is the yogic approach to controlling your breath in order to achieve optimum physical, mental and emotional health. These breathing exercises can be used during yoga asanas (poses) to enhance the effects of the poses, or during meditation, to steady the mind and relax the body. The breath is the bridge that connects your physical body to your thoughts. With pranayama, you can use the breath to take hold of the mind if it becomes scattered, to regroup and refocus.
Pranayama yields many benefits including;
- Awareness of Self
- Anxiety relief
- Lowered heart rate and increases cardiovascular health
- Strengthening of the respiratory system
- Improves 'regular' breathing
- Improves mental sharpness
When you begin practising pranayama, you should be doing so under competent supervision with a qualified yoga teacher. The majority of yoga classes incorporate some form of pranayama, normally in the beginning of the class, along with acknowledgement of the breath throughout the series of yoga postures. As with any form of exercise, pranayama does have its contraindications, so making sure you consult a medical professional before commencing a new exercise is a must.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Comfortable clothing, a yoga mat or cushion, expert guidance and a positive attitude! Pranayama requires very little equipment, and can be practiced anywhere at any time. Making sure that you are wearing comfortable clothing when practicing pranayama is a must, as the body must be able to receive the breath and expel the breath comfortably. Tight or restrictive clothing is not going to allow the abdomen to expand enough to take in a full breath, so yoga pants and a loose top are normally my go-to clothing items for pranayama practice.
COMMON MISTAKES AND THINGS TO AVOID
- Always seek guidance from a properly trained teacher when first beginning pranayama, and once you are confident, you can then practice at home
- Honour your body and always work within your own limitations
- Don’t slouch! Keeping a tall, straight spine is essential when practicing pranayama
- Keep all inhalations and exhalations natural and relaxed. Never force your breath!
Ever since I introduced pranayama in to my life, I have noticed positive changes within myself and the way in which I interact with the world. The benefits of pranayama need to be experienced to be truly understood, so I urge you to get to a class, introduce some pranayama into your life, and I can assure you, you won't regret it :)