Along with Āsana, another common word we hear today in the context of Yoga is Prānāyāma. If you have never been to a Yoga class or practised Yoga in any form, the meaning of this word may not be clear. What, exactly, is Prānāyāma? What is the point of Prānāyāma practice? Why has it become such a rage during COVID? Let’s try to understand.
What is Prānāyāma?
If you have read my earlier piece about Classical Ashtānga Yoga (if you haven’t, read it here!), you know that Prānāyāma is the fourth step in the eight-fold path given by Sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. It comes in right after Āsana and is usually combined with Āsana practice today.
In simple words, Prānāyāma is breathwork – learning how to breathe in a particular way. Why do we need this? Fun fact – we can breathe in anywhere between 4 and 6 litres of air in one breath, but we only breathe about 500 ml of air with each breath! Imagine how much more oxygenation we could give ourselves if we just breathed better! No matter who you are and what you do, Prānāyāma can help you feel better in more ways than one.
A few benefits Prānāyāma practice can bring in the short term and the long term:
- Increased oxygen in the body on an everyday basis
- Better lung efficiency during strenuous exercise or physical work
- Lower resting heart rate
- Reduced muscle fatigue after strenuous activity
- Higher levels of energy through the day
- Better sleep and relaxation
- Increased focus and concentration
- Improved clarity in thoughts and emotions
And this is just the beginning. With regular and in-depth practice, Prānāyāma can take you to meditative states and take you further in your spiritual journey, which is the goal of Prānāyāma in Classical Ashtānga Yoga practices. Pranayama is yet another tool to progress on the path towards Samādhi and liberation, towards a life free of pain and suffering.
Prānāyāma and COVID – what’s the big deal?
Given how often COVID seems to affect the lungs adversely and how many people struggle to breathe when they get infected, Prānāyāma seems to be the perfect practice for the pandemic.
Prānāyāma guides us on how to use our lungs better so we can breathe more slowly and fully. Even those with impaired lung capacity can benefit from Prānāyāma practice by making the working bits of the lungs more efficient.
That’s the reason it is so popular with everyone especially in the pandemic situation. Those with healthy lungs can keep them healthy. Those with impaired lung capacity can work on better efficiency. Those with weakened lungs because of COVID can speed up the recovery process.
If you’d like to know more about Prānāyāma or practice breathwork with me, do get in touch!