According to the sage Patanjali it means controlled breathing which includes deep inhaling, exhaling and retention of breath.Pranayam means control of pran or vital force.
Pranayama yoga is the yoga of breath control and rhythmic breathing. It is a method that focuses on energizing the body through control of the breath, and through this control practitioners are able to expand their energy or internal life force, known as Prana.
Modern medical science has shown unequivocally that Pranayam has benefits for both mind and body.
Today, rapidly growing research shows that a small part of the air we breathe through our nostrils goes directly to the brain via the olfactory lobe and the rest (major portion) goes to the lungs supplying the necessary oxygen to the blood. Thus the inhaling breath affects both the mind and the body directly. Moreover, the air we breathe has a direct impact on our brain.
Yogic breathing is a fundamental practice in the study of yoga. As one of the limbs of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, yogic breathing, or pranayama, is defined as the “control of life force,” and is aimed at increasing vital energy in the body and mind.
Researchers have documented the benefits of a regular practice of simple, deep breathing which include:
Reduced anxiety and depression
Lower/stabilized blood pressure
Increased energy levels
Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm
Beyond the practice of simple deep breathing, the ancient yogis described different types of rhythmic deep breathing techniques that can have differing effects on the mind and body.
A regular daily practice of deep breathing is one of the best tools for improving your health and well- being. Performing one of these breath techniques twice daily for only three to five minutes can produce long-term benefits. You can also use them any time you are feeling stressed or notice that your breathing has become constricted. By training your body with a regular practice of deep breathing, you will begin to breathe more effectively even without concentrating on it.
Breath is essential to life. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we leave. In between that time, we take about half a billion breaths. What we may not realize is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness is the fourth limb of yoga, and it can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.
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