Pranayama is the practice of breath regulation. It’s a main component of yoga, an exercise for physical and mental wellness. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control.
The practice of pranayama involves breathing exercises and patterns. You purposely inhale, exhale, and hold your breath in a specific sequence.
In yoga, pranayama is used with other practices like physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dhyana). Together, these practices are responsible for the many benefits of yoga.
But pranayama has benefits of its own. These advantages are due to the therapeutic effects of breathing exercises and mindfulness.
Pranayama is the ancient practice of controlling your breath. You control the timing, duration, and frequency of every breath and hold.
The goal of pranayama is to connect your body and mind. It also supplies your body with oxygen while removing toxins. This is meant to provide healing physiological benefits.
Pranayama involves different breathing techniques. Examples include:
- alternate nostril breathing (nadishodhana)
- victorious breath (ujjayi)
- female honeybee humming breath (bhramari)
- bellows breath (bastrika)
These breathing exercises can be practiced in many ways. For instance, you can do them while performing yoga poses. You can also practice them while meditating or on their own.
The benefits of pranayama have been extensively researched.
According to scientific studies, pranayama may benefit your health in a variety of different ways. Let’s look at seven of these benefits in more detail.
The authors of the study linked this effect to the increased oxygen uptake during pranayama. Oxygen is energy for your vital organs, including your brain and nerves.
The stress-relieving effects of pranayama may also help you sleep.
According to a 2019 study, pranayama also improves sleep quality in people with obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, the study found that practicing pranayama decreased snoring and daytime sleepiness, suggesting benefits for better quality rest.
For many of us, breathing is automatic. We do it without giving it much thought at all.
But during pranayama, you need to be aware of your breathing and how it feels. You also practice focusing on the present moment, instead of the past or future. This is known as mindfulness.
The researchers also mentioned that pranayama helps remove carbon dioxide and raises oxygen concentration, which fuels brain cells. This may contribute to mindfulness by improving focus and concentration.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when your blood pressure reaches an unhealthy level. It increases the risk for some potentially serious health conditions like heart disease and stroke.
Stress is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. Pranayama can help minimize this risk by promoting relaxation.
This effect, according to the study authors, is likely due to the mindful breathing of pranayama.
When you concentrate on your breathing, it can help calm your nervous system. This, in turn, may help reduce your stress response and risk of hypertension.
As a type of breathing exercise, the slow, forceful breathing of pranayama may strengthen your lungs.
One 2019 study determined that 6 weeks of practicing pranayama for 1 hour a day could have a significant effect on lung function. The practice improved multiple parameters of lung function, according to pulmonary test results.
According to the authors of the study, pranayama may be a useful lung strengthening tool for many lung conditions, including:
- allergic bronchitis
- for recovery from pneumonia and tuberculosis
In addition to benefiting your lungs, pranayama may also enhance your brain function.
The study also found that pranayama has the ability to improve your perceived level of stress and your reaction time.
Additionally, the study found that fast pranayama was associated with better auditory memory and sensory-motor performance.
According to the researchers, these benefits are due to the stress-lowering effects of pranayama. The increased oxygen uptake, which energizes brain cells, likely plays a role as well.
There’s evidence that yogic breathing, or pranayama, could decrease cravings in people who are trying to quit smoking.
In a 2012 study, just 10 minutes of yogic breathing caused a short-term reduction in cigarette cravings.
A recent study found that mindfulness-based yoga breathing decreased the negative effects associated with smoking withdrawal.
Pranayama, or breath control, is a main component of yoga. It’s frequently practiced with yoga postures and meditation.
The goal of pranayama is to strengthen the connection between your body and mind.
According to research, pranayama can promote relaxation and mindfulness. It’s also proven to support multiple aspects of physical health, including lung function, blood pressure, and brain function.
If you haven’t practiced pranayama before, you may want to join a yoga class or find a teacher who can teach the proper technique for these breathing exercises.