Breathing is an important part of any yoga routine, and most yoga asanas include focus on the breath in one way or another. But as important as the breath is, many forget the significance of pranayama as a separate practice.
Pranayama is a practice that aims to provide energy to every cell of our body. It is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘mastery of life force’ or in a more literal sense, to draw out life force or the breath that sustains our body. Pranayama may sound like a simple practice, but you need regular training to be any good at it. According to yogic science, Pranayama is done to include all that guides life force. Pranayama typically involves the practice of correct breathing. Scientifically, Pranayama allows fresh oxygen to reach every organ of your body.
Full pranayama practice is done with the aim to illuminate and enliven the subtle nervous system. According to yoga, the human nervous system has potentials far beyond what the physical and mental bodies can achieve. Yoga says that the human nervous system is like a set of antennae that focuses and channels the creative power of the universe into expression in just one life. Doing Pranayama is like increasing the capacity of a wire inside a lightbulb so that it handles more wattage without burning out. When the wire is able to handle more wattage, it can produce more light and heat. Practicing pranayama every day strengthens our subtle wiring gradually and we begin to fill up with light and energy.
What this means is that we develop a much richer inner life and a deep sense of spiritual balance. Doing pranayama along with a short period of meditation increases the connection to inner stillness by leaps and bounds and ultimately creates the period of rest, integration, and quietness.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, the following are five more reasons why you should be doing Pranayama.
1. It’s very important to the practice of yoga
We often focus so much on the physical yoga asanas, it’s easy to forget that they are just one slice of the Eight Limbs of the practice. When life feels overwhelming or unbalanced, remember there are other amazing tools at your disposal. Pranayama is an under-utilized tool that can be incredibly helpful to balance out your mental health.
2. It’s a mood booster
A pranayama session is often the best choice when you need a quick result. If you need to calm your nervous system or get a quick boost of energy, pranayama will help a lot, and usually, just a few rounds does the trick. In the long term, doing it regularly can help many issues, including anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, improved focus, and, of course increased self-awareness.
3. Allows you to experience mindfulness
Pranayama offers insights you might miss if you only do yoga asanas. Quietness, stillness, and subtlety are much easier to glimpse and grasp through pranayama than through yoga. The movements of the asanas, although beneficial in many ways, also distract your mind. When you sit or lie down in pranayama, the obvious physical movement of the body goes away, and you can focus on more inner qualities.
4. It is an alternative for meditation
Pranayama offers moments of presence and focus similar to meditation, making it a good alternative for when you can’t calm your mind enough to meditate. And often, the concentration required for manipulating the breath can be just what it takes to slip effortlessly into a meditative state.
5. It's a good break from asana.
Doing yoga asana is great. They offer a multitude of benefits. But, sometimes your body just needs a break. So, on those days when you don’t feel like doing normal active yoga practice, a pranayama session can be just what you need to find more peace and balance.
Stay healthy, stay safe :)