Breathing is the most basic yet essential part of life. Each day we take about 25,000 breaths without even realising that the mind, body and breath are intimately connected and influence each other. Just like how unconscious and involuntary breathing is highly influenced by our thoughts, conscious breathing can in turn influence out physiology.
Have you noticed how a stressful thought can trigger shallow and rapid breathing? This breath primarily comes from the chest and not the lower lungs. This makes you anxious and leaves you short of breath. As a response to this, your body produces a surge of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which increase your blood pressure and heart rate which make you restless.
Deep breathing can reverse these symptoms and help establish a sense of calm. That’s why yoga stresses on the art of breathing consciously and with awareness to restore balance in the mind and body.
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Breath is regarded as a life force and is called Prana in the world of yoga. It is believed to be a vital force of oxygen and energy that our body requires. A free-flowing source of this force will help manage physical and mental activities.
“When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.”
– Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Pranayam is a part of yoga that teaches you the art to control and to extend your breath. It includes three stages—inhaling, retaining and exhaling of breath. Retention is the main stage where it gives your cells more opportunity to absorb oxygen for itself. Inhalation and exhalation are methods for effective retention.
Here’s how you can practice simple Pranayam.
Pranayam should ideally be done in the morning after you’ve freshened up but before you’ve had anything to eat.
A spacious room with sufficient sunlight and air should help your breath and focus better.
Sit on a mat or the floor with your legs crossed. Your spine and head should be straight and your face should be looking forward. Keep your eyes closed, pointing towards the tip of your nose. If you can’t sit on the floor, use a chair.
Sit quietly for one minute and let your mind relax completely before you begin Pranayam. Take deep and easy breaths during this time and focus on the energy you receive through each breath. When you exhale, imagine letting out all the impurities from your body.
Take a slow, deep and steady breath. It could be as deep as possible. Imagine you’re inhaling energy into your body.
Hold this breath for as long as you are comfortable with it. Think of this breath as the Prana that is cleansing your whole body from the tip of your brain to your leg.
Exhale very slowly and as you do so think of your body letting out the impurities. This exhalation should be longer than the inhalation.
Repeat the three steps about ten times or as per your convenience.
Practising Pranayam daily is an excellent way to improve your health and well-being. If you need a little help to get your breath in rhythm, you can use Fitbit trackers like Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Charge 2. Both these fitness bands have a new on-device guided breathing experience called Relax that offers a personalised guided breathing session based on your heart rate. This session is powered by PurePulse and uses your real-time heart rate to measure heart rate variability (beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate), and suggest a comfortable breathing rate for you.
You can pick a two-minute or five-minute session that uses vibrations to help you align each inhale and exhale with the guide. This is designed for you to make the most out of your breathing experience. At the end of the session, you get feedback on how well you followed the guide.
With or without the fitness band, Pranayam can help you be calm, healthy and more focused. This Yoga Day, take up the challenge to breath more mindfully.
Cover Image Courtesy: Shutterstock.com
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