Breathing is a body function that, despite being unconscious and involuntary, it can become conscious and voluntary if we dare to take control of this powerful human technology.
“To breath is to live”, says André Van Lysebeth. For a Yogi, to breathe is not enough. If breathing is life, breathing better is to live better.
In Yoga Sámkhya philosophy, the technical discipline that specifically works on this ability of our respiratory functions is called Pránáyáma.
The word Prána refers to the unique kinetic energy from where all energies in the Universe derive (for example, lightning). The Prána used in Human Beings are the oxygen’s negative ions (anions) – bio energy. The word Yáma means to restrain, to control.
The four phases of breathing in Yoga:
- Puraka – inhaling;
- Kumbhaka – retention with the lungs filled;
- Rechaka – exhaling;
- Súnhyaka – retention with the lungs empty
Greatly improve the oxygen intake in each breathe and optimize the performance of each breathe cycle.
The conscious use of the diaphragm uses the area of the lungs with greater capacity, the lower part, into which the air flows in first and from where it flows out last. It also reinforces the heart’s function in the circulatory system (venous phase), helping it to relax.
It explores the total capacity of the lungs to breath, namely the lower area of the lungs, the bigger one. The diaphragm is also used consciously, in a natural process. Breathing is done through the nose and almost seven liters of air (in males) per inspiration are absorbed by the body bringing a high amount of O2 into the organism.
In the West, we breath with the superior part of the lungs whereas the inferior part, the main part, is overlooked. The mouth is often used to breathe and the general amount of air used is in the order of 0,5lts to 2lts, maximum 3.
Start by doing Adhama Pránáyáma, abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. When you inhale the diaphragm lowers and the abdomen relaxes. During the exhale the diaphragm rises and the abdomen contracts, similar to the newborn breathing.
Benefits of practicing Pranayama:
- The mobilization of the diaphragm promotes a very effective massage to all abdominal organs, favouring an optimal functioning of the intestines and the whole digestive, reproductive and urinary system.
- It stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, which is vital for the relief of stress, anxiety and tension.
- Breath in a slow and controlled way, deeper and deeper each time, where an increasingly effective use of our entire thoracic lung capacity is made.
- To become conscious of our part in all the respiratory function and control of the Energy.
- The creation of mental and emotional states of consciousness (and bioenergetic states also).
- The control of organic functions.
- To attain a state of superconsciousness.
Breathe better, Live to the best!
“There is life so long as Váyu (Prána) is [working] in the body, Váyu ceasing to work means death. Therefore respiration should be regulated (so as to minimize respiratory activity).1
“So long as breathing goes on the mind remains unsteady; when [it] stops, [the mind] becomes still and the Yogi attains complete motionlessness. Hence one should restrain one’s breath.”1
1 -In: Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Svátmáráma Edit by Swami Digambarji – Director of Reserch, Keivalyadhama S.M.Y.M.Samiti & Pt. Raghunatha Shastri Kokaje Sámkhya-Tarka-Tirtha, Dharmapárína
Leonor Bento, Yoga Samkhya Instructor
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