Pranayama is a sanskrit word. It literally means:
prana (life force) yama
(mastery or control of). Gaining control or mastery of your breath is very
Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga and is combined with “hatha” or
the physical poses during sadhana (yoga practice). However, various forms of
pranayama may be practiced on there own with very positive effects.
What can pranayama do for you?
Before I tell you the positive effects practicing pranayama can have on your
health I’d like to ask you to take a moment and observe your breath.
Place a hand over your belly and another hand over your heart. Without
changing or altering your breathing in any way, simply observe where you feel
the breath in your body. If you’re like most people, you may notice that your
breath is quite shallow and is primarily felt in the upper chest.
If you watch a baby breathe you’ll notice that their entire torso moves as
they breathe. This is the way most of us started out breathing when we were
young. Overtime we learned to hold or limit our breath for various reasons -
anxiety, not wanting to feel our feelings, needing to hold our stomachs in to
Practicing pranayama can begin to break down your shallow habit of breathing
and establish a more healthy pattern. In my experience of 30 years of practicing
pranayama and yoga, I feel that pranayama is more poweful than the yoga poses
alone. Pranayama can have profound effects on your health and your sense of well
From each breath you take your body extracts about 25% oxygen out of that
breath. Think about it… if you’re breathing very shallow breath all day, you’re
not getting much oxygen!
There are some interesting studies that have been done on lack of oxygen and
chronic diseases. A study conducted if Germany in the late 1940’s showed that
lack of oxygen in the blood could lead to normal body cells turning into cancer
cells. Another study done at Baylor University in the US has shown that lack of
oxygen is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and cancer. In the Baylor study
they were able to reverse arterial disease in monkeys by infusing oxygen into
Oxygen purifies the blood stream and pranayama exercises are a highly
effective means of oxygenating your blood. With more oxygen in your system you
will have more energy and enhanced mental focus. Basically, by purifying your
blood stream, every part of your body benefits.
In addition to the physical benefits your body gains from practicing
pranayama you’ll notice improvements in your mental and emotional state as well.
Deep breathing calms the nervous system and quiets your mind.
If you haven’t tried pranayama before, start practicing today! You’ll notice
improvement right away.
For a quick lesson in Dirga Pranayama take our