Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that refers to controlled breathing techniques used in yoga practice. Pranayama is a practice in yoga that involves controlling the breath to achieve specific physical and mental effects. It involves several different techniques that involve controlling the rate, rhythm, and depth of breathing.
We get energy via food but that’s not the only way we can get energy. Breath is the secret to getting more energy. As we age, our breathing pattern gets messed up. Our breath flows joyously and freely when we are young but as we age, the flow and depth of each breath get disturbed. This is the reason kids have a lot of energy and can play all day long while we would get tired within a few mins.
Importance of correct breathing
Correct breathing is important for a variety of physical and mental health reasons. Some of the benefits of proper breathing include:
- Improved Oxygenation: Correct breathing allows for maximum oxygen exchange in the lungs, which helps to improve overall health by providing the body with more oxygen.
- Decreased Stress and Anxiety: Controlled breathing has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and stress reduction.
- Improved Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function: Proper breathing helps to strengthen the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, which can lead to improved health and reduced risk of disease.
- Better Posture: Correct breathing helps to improve posture by promoting proper alignment of the spine and chest.
- Improved Mental Clarity: Controlled breathing has been shown to increase oxygenation of the brain, which can lead to improved cognitive function and a sense of mental clarity.
- Better Sleep: Proper breathing can help to calm the mind and promote relaxation, which can lead to improved sleep.
It is important to practice proper breathing throughout the day, not just during exercise or meditation. Incorporating techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, which involves slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm, into daily routines can help to improve overall health and well-being.
Why does our breathing gets messed up as we age?
Breathing can become more laboured and difficult as people age for a variety of reasons, including:
- Traumatic events: Increased Stress and Anxiety that comes with Traumatic events can increase stress and anxiety levels, which can lead to shallow breathing, rapid breathing, or even breath-holding. This can have a negative impact on overall health, including the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Decreased Lung Capacity: As people age, the lung tissue may lose some of its elasticity, making it harder to fully expand the lungs and take deep breaths.
- Decreased Muscle Tone: As the muscles that control breathing weaken with age, it becomes harder to control the breath and maintain proper breathing patterns.
- Chronic Health Conditions: Many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and obesity, can affect breathing as people age.
- Reduced Physical Activity: As people age, they may become less active, which can lead to a decrease in the strength and flexibility of the muscles used for breathing.
- Changes in Hormonal Balance: Hormonal changes, such as the decrease in estrogen levels in women during menopause, can affect breathing and increase the risk of respiratory problems.
It is important for older adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and a balanced diet, to help maintain proper breathing and overall health. Additionally, practising proper breathing techniques, such as those found in yoga or meditation, can help to improve breathing and overall well-being as people age.
These techniques include slow, deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing), holding the breath for a certain period of time (breath retention), and rapid breathing (breath stimulation).
Pranayama works by affecting the body’s nervous system and oxygen levels. Controlled breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and stress reduction, and decrease levels of stress hormones like cortisol. The increased oxygenation of the body and brain can also lead to improved cognitive function and a sense of mental clarity.
Additionally, the practice of pranayama is believed to stimulate the movement of prana, or life force energy, throughout the body. This energy is said to be responsible for physical and mental well-being, and by controlling the breath, yogis aim to control and balance the flow of prana.
It is important to approach pranayama with caution and under the guidance of a qualified teacher, as some techniques, such as breath retention, can be dangerous if not practised correctly. It is also important to note that pranayama should be integrated into a larger yoga practice that includes physical postures, meditation, and relaxation.
Benefits of Pranayama
It is believed to have physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving respiratory and cardiovascular function, increasing energy levels, and promoting mental clarity.
There is some scientific evidence that regular practice of pranayama can lead to a longer and healthier life by improving respiratory and cardiovascular function, reducing stress, and strengthening the immune system.
Yogis have used pranayama for thousands of years as a means of controlling the breath, calming the mind, and improving overall health and well-being. In traditional yoga practice, pranayama is often combined with physical postures, meditation, and visualization to achieve a state of mental and physical balance.
It is important to note that pranayama should be practised under the guidance of a qualified teacher, as improper technique can lead to physical and mental discomfort.
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