It is obvious that we all breathe, and we all think that we know how to breathe but are we doing it right? Is there a right or wrong way to breathe? Well yes there is, but let’s start from the beginning.
Conscious control of the breath is called Pranayama. The word itself has Sanskrit origins; “Prana” means energy and “Ayama” means to control. By inhalation we take not only oxygen but also Prana, (the cosmic energy) and by learning to consciously direct it in our body we increase our vitality, as well as our inner peace, relaxation and mental clarity.
It’s interesting to mention that the ancient yogis measured life by the number of breaths, not by years. They believed that if each inhalation and exhalation is done longer, the life of the person will also be longer.
Awareness of Breathing
Most of us aren’t aware of our own breathing, therefore we breathe shallowly and automatically which contributes to developing many diseases. And if we pay attention we’ll see that a lot of people do the same. So what is the right way?
Well, we distinguish four phases of the breathing process: inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling and pausing. Inhalation is the process of bringing the Prana into the body so this is the active part of the breathing process. Exhalation is the removal of toxins from the system and this is the passive part, the relaxation phase.
There are different Pranayama techniques, but before starting any of them, I suggest you practice awareness of your breathing for a while which will help you to live in the present moment. I also warmly recommend that you try to master yoga breathing, which is very simple. We start by observing our breath. As we inhale, first we fill the abdomen, then the chest. We hold a breath for a couple of seconds and as we exhale, we exhale the air from the chest, then from the abdomen. Practice this for a couple of breaths and a couple of days. Let this be the basis that will facilitate your introduction to Pranayama and will give you an understanding of conscious breath tracking.
After mastering complete yoga breathing you can start practicing classical Pranayama techniques such as Nadi Shodhana, Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, Ujjayi, Bhramari, and others. More on that Later!
The golden rule is that whatever technique or approach you choose to practice, breathing must flow effortlessly.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama exercises clear the physical and emotional barriers in our body, where through the control of the breath, the Prana flows through the body.
Some of the many physical benefits of Pranayama are: maintaining physical health, increasing the capacity of the lungs, improving digestion, purifying the blood and normalizing the blood pressure, stabilizing and harmonizing the work of the nervous system, etc.
Some of the many mental benefits of Pranayama are: removing stress, nervousness, and depression, bringing inner balance, removing energy blockages, increasing concentration, calmness, and confidence, etc.
And one more thing; we always breathe through the nose (unless explicitly stated otherwise). You know how they say the nose is for breathing, and the mouth is for eating! So, try it, enjoy the calmness it brings to you and cherish the present moment.