Breathe like a yogi: Pranayama

Most of us breathe shallow and unconsciously as we move through life, unaware of the powerful connection between breath and emotion.

When we are anxious, stressed or in fear, we breathe faster. Similarly, if we are calm and relaxed, our breathing slows. If you desire to live in a state of peace, conscious breathing is a beautiful place to begin. The regular practice of deep breathing assists in giving us the ability to control our emotions rather than have them control us. 

Pranayama is introduced by Patanjali in the eight-limb ashtanga path as a precursor to samadhi (connection to the divine.) The literal translation from Sanskrit is life force (prana) control (yama).

In yoga, we breathe through our nose, using it like our own personal air filtration system. The nostril cavity heats and purifies the air as we inhale so the lungs can absorb the air more efficiently, delivering oxygen to the bloodstream.  Among physical positive effects of a slow, even breath such as increasing the functions of the lungs, heart and internal organs and improving blood circulation to every part of the body, pranayama also boasts benefits spiritually, mentally and emotionally:

+ calms the nervous system 

+ strengthens the respiratory system

+ improves concentration and focus

+ relieves stress, depression and hypertension

+ induces a feeling of peace

+ aids self-control

+ improves sleep

 

Medical research is now discovering the wealth of wellness benefits from the practice of regular conscious breathing techniques and encourages the use of them to sufferers of anxiety and other mental illnesses. Becoming aware of the breath is a simple and powerful shift that you can practice throughout the day. Taking just a few minutes during the day in meditation or while sitting in traffic, preparing food or practicing deep belly breathing as you get ready for bed are all perfect ways to integrate pranayama practice in to daily life. You will soon uncover the deep reflection of the emotions you experience in your breath and be able to intentionally create a still and serene mind.