If you’re a beginner in yoga, you may have heard that breath is foundational to your practice. Maybe you’ve already put together that yogis call breathing exercises pranayamas . Pranayamas are used to settle the mind, relieve stress, and improve mental clarity — they have also been shown to have a positive impact on overall health .
Following is an explanation of pranayamas for beginners. Perhaps active, experienced yogis will enjoy refreshing their basic knowledge as well.
Prana is the universal life force or energy that flows through every living being. Ancient yogis believed the power of breath could benefit a person’s prana and strengthen the channels through which prana flows (called nadis) as well as the enliven the body’s energy centers (called chakras). By doing so, early practitioners believed that they would maintain health and mental acuity.
Pranayama is a compound word that combines prana (life force) and ayama (to control). The practice of pranayama helps you learn to control and strengthen your breathing. Typically, in modern yoga practice, pranayamas refer to several breathing exercises designed to help you control your breath. When practiced correctly, pranayama can help you find harmony between your mind and body, relieving stress and and feeling spiritually renewed.
Attending to your breath focuses your mind on the present moment and allows you to let go of things that generally distract and occupy your mind. In doing this, you will be able to increase your self-awareness and, over time, enjoy a calming sense through the practice.
The rhythms of pranayamas can also bring emotional and bodily health benefits:
• Improved focus
• Boosted immune system
• Reduced anxiety
• Increased feelings of positivity
• Improved energy
• Refreshed mind
Emotions, especially very strong emotions that cause a person to lash out, tend to be transitory in nature. Powerful at the onset, they usually sputter out — after the damage has been done. Have you ever noticed how your breath changes when you are extremely afraid? Or angry? Your mind may kick into a fight or flight response, before you have a chance to consider the outcomes of either action.
The practice of pranayama helps you regulate you build a stronger bond with your breath. As you learn to be conscious of your breath, you will begin to notice when your emotions cause changes to it. As you learn to better control your breathing to calm yourself, to clear your mind, and to gain perspective, you will be able to use these techniques to make more conscious, mindful decisions. Awareness will help you identify your emotions, acknowledge them, and breathe, rather than react.
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