March 22, 2024

The Physiological Effects of Pranayama

Pranayama is an effective practice to connect body and mind, as well as provide therapeutic physiological benefits. An integral component of yoga, its history dates back to the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.

Pranayama is an effective form of breathing exercise which engages the parasympathetic nervous system to promote relaxation and restfulness, increase oxygen levels in blood, rebalance respiratory and circulatory systems and balance breathing systems - these benefits have been scientifically documented by numerous studies, some of which are listed below.

Different pranayama techniques each have their own distinct effects. Some can energize and detoxify like Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) with its fast rhythm, strong abdominal contractions, and expulsion of air through fast abdominal breathing; while others like Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), which involves equal inhalations through both nostrils, can balance and relax. One interesting finding from research indicates that during pranayama practice the cerebellum becomes active - an area of the brain which connects higher brain levels to spinal cord via autonomic functions like respiration.

Another study shows that during pranayama, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors in the heart and circulation become active, activating mechanoreceptors that detect changes in pH or pressure levels of blood and send this information directly to pons and medulla (brain areas that control our circulatory function) for processing. This may explain its positive psychological and physiological effects.

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