The Role of Breath in Yoga: Techniques to Improve Your Practice and Reduce Anxiety
The process of inhaling and exhaling air with the help of the lungs, breathing is an important part of our life and there is no second thought about it. Imagine yourself not drawing breath for more than 30 seconds and you would be suffocating yourself to unconsciousness or maybe even worse. Isn’t it? So, breathing is what keeps us alive and provides our mind and body with energy. But did you know breathing also plays a crucial role in yoga? Yes! It serves as an essential component while practising yoga as breathing is what aligns with your yoga postures and it is what links our mind with the body.
However, in the yogic world, breathing is often referred to as pranayama. When we practise yoga, we control our breath, which in turn, influences not only our physical state but also our thoughts and emotions. In this article, we would be learning about pranayama, its benefits, and different pranayama techniques to improve yoga practice and reduce anxiety, depression, and other such problems.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama comprises two Sanskrit words namely, Prana which means life or vital energy and Ayama, which means to control or expand. Hence, pranayama as a single word stands for controlled breath. It is one of the foundational practices in the yogic world and is all about controlling and extending breath to maintain the right flow of energy in the mind and body.
Pranayama is often practised along with different yoga postures and meditation and is extremely beneficial while leading a healthy lifestyle. Because when you voluntarily regulate your breath by consciously increasing or decreasing the inflow or outflow of air, you tend to facilitate your overall well-being. Hence, it is a part of every yoga training course, whether it is 300 hour or 200 hour yoga TTC in India.
General Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama boasts of its incredible healing powers which not only transform your mind and body but also influence your inner spirit. When you sit down and practise pranayama regularly, you develop a sense of serenity within you. That’s why it has become an integral part of yoga and is practised by millions of people around the world. The significant benefits of pranayama include:
- Helps in the expansion of lung capacity, thereby, increasing oxygen supply to the mind and body
- Enhances your overall well-being by boosting metabolism and immunity and reducing inflammation
- Enhances focus and concentration in life by providing you with mental clarity
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression by sending peaceful vibes to your mind and body
- Helps in releasing toxins out of the body and cleansing it
- Increases energy levels and brings harmony between mind, body, and soul
7 Pranayama Techniques To Improve Your Practise and Reduce Anxiety
Also called Ocean Breath, Ujjayi Pranayama is one of the most popular pranayama techniques to keep one’s mind relaxed and at peace. This would not only deepen your yoga practice but would also reduce anxiety and restlessness. It is the practice wherein you make a soft ocean-like sound during inhaling and exhaling air. Simply sit with your spine upright and then deeply inhale while constricting your throat. Now, hold on to the breath for 10 seconds and release it gradually.
Another way to keep yourself energetic and reduce anxiety is Bhastrika Pranayama wherein you indulge in forceful and rapid inhalation and exhalation. During the practice, you empty your lungs while pumping the diaphragm and abdominal muscles as you inhale and exhale with great force through your nose. This technique is extremely beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety as it enhances the flow of vital energy in your body.
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
Also called Alternate nostril breathing, Nadi Shodhan pranayama is a kind of yogic breathing wherein you inhale and exhale by closing one nostril at a time. This helps in cleaning Nadis and energy channels and keeps us fit and healthy. Apart from reducing stress and anxiety, it also improves respiratory function, enhances concentration and focus, and of course, takes care of overall cardiovascular health.
If you are a yoga lover or an enthusiast who wishes to explore the yogic sphere, then you must have heard of Kapalbhati. One of the best breathing techniques that remove toxins from your body and improve digestion. To practise it, sit down in a cross-legged position and inhale deeply while contracting abdominal muscles and then exhale forcefully.
Sitkari Kumbhaka Pranayama
Roll up your tongue to the roof of your mouth and then inhale deeply through your mouth. Now, hold on to the breath for a few seconds before exhaling it through your nose. It is a great yoga breathing technique to keep your mind and body cool and relaxed as it lowers body temperature. Consequently, it will help you deal with stress and anxiety along with improving your digestion.
Also called the Humming Bee Breath, Brahmari Pranayama helps you develop a sense of calmness and relief within you. The practice involves inhaling through the nose and making a humming sound like a bee during exhalation. Apart from reducing stress and anxiety, it also helps in improving focus and concentration.
Tips for Practising Pranayama
Whether or not you are new to pranayama, there are certain tips that you must try to abide by while doing pranayama. Because it is important to start slowly to build your practice.
- Look for a peaceful and quiet place so that you can practise it without distractions
- Start as slow as you can with simple techniques such as Ujjayi Pranayama and do not rush yourself into practising advanced techniques.
- Practice pranayama at least 2 hours before taking food, though it is recommended on an empty stomach.
- Do not force yourself and take a break if you feel uncomfortable at any stage.
- Take help from qualified teachers to ensure that you are doing it safely and in the right manner.