March 28, 2024

Pranayama - The Fourth of Eight Limbs of Yoga


Pranayama, or breath control in yoga, can be an extremely powerful means of increasing physical and mental wellness. Referred to as one of the eight limbs of yoga, pranayama's goal is to promote harmony across all areas of a person's being: physically in steady and healthy breathing patterns; mentally by cultivating positive, clear thoughts; spiritually by connecting to our source energy source.

Studies examining the therapeutic benefits of pranayama have reported positive physiological and psychological results across healthy and diseased populations alike. Of particular note are its significant therapeutic effects in people suffering from respiratory illnesses like bronchial asthma where measurements such as pulse rate and systolic blood pressure improved significantly along with reduced frequency of symptoms. It has also been found to reduce fatigue, anxiety, and emotional responses for those living with cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Breathing exercises performed within pranayama help strengthen and stretch respiratory muscles to increase lung capacity. Kapalbhati involves forceful exhalation that strengthens expiratory and abdominal muscles for improved pulmonary function; other breathing techniques, like Sukka Purvaka or alternate nostril breathing involve inhaling through one nostril while exhaling through another, helping remove secretions from bronchial tree and alveoli and make room for more airflow.

Pranayama not only strengthens the lungs, but it can also enhance memory and increase cognitive flexibility and awareness by relieving stress and tension. Furthermore, pranayama may even improve digestion by increasing blood flow and regulating metabolism.


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