health Nov 1, 2021

Breathing is one of the most important and complicated involuntary activities controlled by the brain stem. It involves both inspiration and expiration.
The word “inspiration” refers not only to the part of breathing but also to the state of being filled with spirit and energy. During inspiration, the air is filtered, and kept warm or moist. Thus the air reaches the lungs in the best condition to provide efficient transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Pranayama is an ancient Indian practice concerned with control of breath. It is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gītā as "trance induced by stopping all breathing". According to the Buddhism, it is the preparation for concentration.
In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pranayama is mentioned as a means of attaining higher states of awareness, and the holding of breath as important practice of reaching Samadhi.

“Pranayama” is a Sanskrit word made up of two halves, “prana” and “yama” (or “ayama”), "Prana" is Breath or vital energy in the body, and "ayama" means control. So Pranayama is "Control of Breath".
One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind. Prana or vital energy flows through various energy channels called “nadis” along with energy centres called “chakras”.
When there is no proper flow of this energy, a person can feel stressed, depressed and worried.  
Pranayama maintains prana and flow of energy.  While practicing Pranayama, one should let all the thoughts go and should concentrate on type of breathing involved with the pranayama.
Breathing should be slow and steady and air should be taken in and out of the nose and down into the belly. Pranayama increases maximum expiratory pressure, maximum inspiratory pressure, breath holding time after expiration and breath holding time after inspiration.
Full breathing is achieved in Pranayama and it is a part of yoga.
The process of Pranayama is concerned with the breathing and it is the voluntary control of the breath.
Pranayama is the perfect breathing exercise. It is easy to practice and can be performed in almost all circumstances without any cost or equipment.
A full breath in which expiration or exhalation is longer than the inspiration or inhalation, the abdominal cavity, where all main organs are located will be effected.
During breathing, diaphragm moves up and down, and this causes all abdominal organs also to move. Thus, all internal organs receive exercise in pranayama.
Such physical actions are important to the health of internal organs, and to the quality of life.  In the case of full breathing, some of the delicate nerves are also stimulated.
Pranayama has different types such as Quiet Breathing, Deep Breathing, Fast Breathing, Tribandha and Pranayama, Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama, Anuloma - Viloma (Alternate nostril breathing), Suryan Bhedan Pranayama (Right Nostril Breathing), Ujjayi Pranayama, Bhramari Pranayama.

Benefits of Pranayama

  • One who practices pranayama regularly, will experience the wonderful and unimaginable benefits of it.
  • It restructures the autonomic nervous system by increasing parasympathetic activity, and decreases sympathetic activity. By increasing the activity of parasympathetic nervous system, pranayama relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and hypertension which are the main causes of various diseases and body pains.
  • It also provides relaxation for body and mind by improving concentration.
  • Regular practice of pranayama improves the function of reproductive organs.
  • It also cures asthma, headache, migraine, neurological problems and gastric problems.
  • Regular practice of pranayama will keep the tissues of the lower lungs more nourished, flexible, and free of toxins.
  • Rhythm of heartbeat is closely connected with the action of our lungs and this will improve blood circulation and reduce the heart-related problems.


Pranayama should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced Guru or Trainer.
The process of Pranayama is concerned with the breathing, so it is learnt and practiced under an expert's guidance. It does not mean that it is a very difficult process that cannot be done by a common man.

  • Person should inform the teacher or trainer of their physical limitations and concerns before starting learning.
  • Pranayama is practiced in outdoors or in a well ventilated room.
  • Pranayama should not be practiced immediately after meals and there should be at least three hours gap after meals.
  • Morning is the best time to perform this pranayama which takes 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Breathing should be always through the nose and it should not be forceful. The breathing should be rhythmic and steady without loud sounds.
  • If it is done wrongly, it may cause harm to the person and it should not be practiced in a hurry.
  • During learning, breath should not be held and it should be done under the guidance of an expert teacher.
  • After pranayama strenuous exercise should not be done and it should not be practiced when the lungs are congested.

Scientific Research

The effect of Pranayama technique on health has been studied extensively by scientists. According to them, cognitive functions, working memory, neural processing & sensory-motor performance can be improved by Pranayama.
Medical research studies have shown that spending just 10 mins a day for pranayama can help children cope with such stress & anxiety.
A recent study shows that regular pranayama can result in improved visual & auditory reaction time, which might be very useful for athletes.

Pranayama is gaining importance in the medical field, with experiments ranging from measuring reaction time, to long term analysis of health benefits. Due to the health benefits of Pranayama, it is being recommended by doctors throughout the world.

In the future also health-care providers will certainly prescribe specific yogic breathing practices for specific conditions for specific individuals.


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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