Yoga training is becoming increasingly mainstream in today’s fitness and meditation circles as a way to not only get a workout, but also relax the body. As the practice continues to gain popularity, classes tend to focus more and more on exposing participants to various poses, salutations, and sequences. While these are important to successfully practice yoga, more intermediate and advanced classes touch on pranayama, or proper yoga breathing. Maintaining proper breathing during yoga helps practitioners gain both mental and health benefits in addition to their exercise.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is defined as a conscious manipulation of breath by either extending or shortening the its length. By changing inhalation and exhalation in a modified fashion, yoga practicers achieve profound effects on their body, mind, mood, and energy. Different yoga styles involve different types of pranayama focused on particular benefits or goals that go along with the different asanas.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama breathing during yoga training is one of the best ways to relieve the stresses of daily life. This type of breathing is meant to alleviate stress by clearing the mind of everything while focusing only on the breath and general relaxation. The majority of teachers who incorporate pranayama into their practices do so either at the beginning or the end of the practice in order to wash away any anxiety or tension in the body. Many of the positions of pranayama involve sitting or lying to allow practitioners to focus only on their breath rather than trying to hold a difficult position.
In addition to its meditation qualities, pranayama also helps to rid the body of toxins. By fully exhaling and removing all air from the lungs, the body clears itself of stale or old air and replaces it with fresh oxygen. This fresh oxygen is then circulated throughout the body, helping to raise the body temperature and create a general feeling of well-being. Many of those involved with yoga training swear by the fresh and renewed feeling a couple of deep pranayama breaths provide.
(Related: Read about your mat as a microcosm here.)
Proper pranayama breathing is a great addition to standard yoga training and should be incorporated into every type of yoga practice. This type of breathing rejuvenates and uplifts the body and is a great way for participants to reap all the benefits yoga can provide. Even those not actually practicing yoga should still take time out of their day to sit and practice their pranayama breathing. Pranayama is a skill that can be incorporated into various parts of life to attain a feeling of calm and serenity.
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones in the studio.