What is pranayama?
Some people call yogic breath “pranayama”. The word, prana, means life force; it’s a Sanskrit word. You may wonder what is pranayama? What effects does it have on you?
Pranayama is the art and science of yogic breathing techniques. It gives you clarity of mind, boosts your energy (prana), increases your concentration and alertness, and calms and grounds you.
Physical effects of Pranayama
- Know the mechanic of yogic breathing which consists of 3 parts: 1) lower, 2) middle, 3) upper part. We call them the breathing apparatus.
- Nose breathing gives clean and moist air, which is better and easier for the lung so the air will be more efficiently transfer. [If you ask someone with a breathing problem, they will tell you how difficult it is to breathe when the air is dry and not clean.]
- Full breathing through the nose stimulates some of the subtle nerve structures.
- Full breath with longer inhalation and exhalation has an impact on our abdominal cavity. Our stomach is where most of our major organs are located. As the diaphragm moves up and down, it massages the organs located inside the abdominal cavity by sliding against one another. (As in the sample of twist poses. When your torso twists, it creates a massage effect on your internal organs which will help shape and tug its tendons and fascia and slowly any liquid and it contains. (That’s why it’s not a good idea to eat a full meal right before you come to yoga class. Eat a light meal 2-3 hours before.)
- Increase the velocity of the fluid inside of us. We have water in our cells and water outside our cells called “Intra-cellular ” and “inter-cellular” water contents.
- Full emptying of the lung and clean out the bottom of the lung.
There are many types of pranayama we practice in yoga class depending on the purpose and objective in the class.
The simplest one is the dirgha breath (pronounced “deer-gha”, also called the three-part breath. The second type is ujjayi breath (pronounced “oo-jai”. It asks you to restrict your throat as you make the sound of the ocean. Sometimes it’s called the “ocean sounding breath” for that reason. Then, it’s the Kaphalabhati breath, or called “skull-polishing breath”. That is the breath of fire, which is to energize you.
You will learn many more types of pranayama when you develop a regular practice of yoga from learning from a teacher.
Meditation has shown to increase relaxation and to boost your immunity. These are the 3-step Meditation Process:
- Still the body
- Still the breath
- Still the mind
It is said that you have to concentrate for a period of time (i.e. 15 minutes) before you can meditate. The benefits to meditate are many. Among them are:
- It makes the brain more plastic
- It increases grey matter in the brain, thus, makes the brain age more slowly.
- It increases the cortical thickness associated with decision making, memory, and attention according to Dr. Randy Zusman in his Relaxation study.
There are many types of meditation. You can choose one that is right for you. Most of all, if you have never done or tried meditation, it is best to start with a course and be taught by a teacher, rather than from reading on your own. We have an Introduction to Meditation course offered in January 2021. This is a three-week course in January. If you miss this one, there is another 4-week course in February 2021. Please click on the links above to learn more and to sign up.