There's so much vitality brought in with every breath we take, and although this practice seems innate, there's far more to achieve. Take the Pranayama for instance; it's a yogic breathing practice that directly translated means "vital force (Prana) control (Yama)." Recent research shows that the Pranayama practice has significant benefits on the autonomic nervous system, and helps create a mood of tranquility. Those who practice Pranayama also exhibit lower stress levels, improved cognition, and aide with depression, hypertension, and anxiety (as cited in The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, March 2017).
Here’s how it works:
As you breathe regularly, your lungs involuntarily expand and contract to refresh themselves at a base level. With Pranayama however, the breathing is controlled to fill the lungs entirely for full ventilation. This process is focused and intentional. The energy you produce with this deep inhalation then passes through your body to reach power sources commonly referred to as chakras or 'Nadis.' Practitioners suggest that through such controlled breathing one creates an active connection between a conscious mind and balanced body.
Give it a try:
If you've never practiced Pranayama, but you'd like to harness it's healing power, don't fret. Here are a few techniques to guide you:
Channel the formation-- it's important to start by acknowledging your own breathing style. Are you are shallow, and choppy, or maybe deep and steady? Recognize your pace, the rhythm, and the feelings associated with it. With this technique you will learn to differentiate between the depths and richness of quality breathing. And the greater the quality, the closer you are to fulfillment in Pranayama.
Focus through each phase-- Pranayama begins at Purak, which means 'inhale' in Sanskrit. Contrived inhalation brings new light into your lungs. Make this slow, and strong enough to reach to fullness of your capacity. With this inhalation you're on your way to phase 2, Kumbhak. This is the retention phase, and it's critical. Once you've soaked up a breath, hold it! Let it build inside you, and prepare for phase 3, Rechak. This exhalation is a method that may vary depending on the style of breath you practice (e.g., Ujjai, bee breath), but commit to it. Focus on the slow and the steady; create a patient rhythm with these phases.
Extend your practice-- the common breath of Pranayama is referred to as a 'bee breath,' in which you seal the mouth, close your ears with your fingers, and release through the nostrils. Another is the Ujjai, wherein one seals the mouth, inhales deeply through the nostrils, and releases within the throat to retain energy and sustain heat within the body. These techniques take time, and when you commit, you've begun a process to healing.
Investing 10-15 minutes per session brings you a level of bliss. The body relaxes, and you start to feel subtle changes in your heart rate. If you take it a bit further to 15-30 minutes per session, you are strengthening your road to alignment. I wish you happy breathing. Namaste.