Have you ever heard it said that human potential is infinite?
You must’ve heard stories of people lifting buses or surviving without food and water for months? What about surviving underwater for 30 even 40 minutes without an air supply?
This article will explore pranayama and how it is linked to the human system overall.
Yoga is a lifestyle, a philosophy and most importantly, a spiritual path of which pranayama or breathing techniques play quite a critical role. Thousands of years ago, Sage Patanjali enumerated eight limbs of yoga, this article will take a look at the fourth limb – pranayama.
What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?
Restraint, observance, postures, regulation of breath, substitute food for the mind, ability of the mind to focus, meditation and higher states of consciousness are eight limbs of yoga.
The limbs of yoga develop together; similar to how pulling one leg of a chair results in the entire chair coming toward you, when you practice one limb of yoga, the other limbs begin to develop as well.
What is pranayama?
Prana is the breath or the life force energy.
It is what allows you to move, eat, sleep, dance, speak, think and all the other things you do throughout your day.
There are 72 000 nadis or energy channels in the body. Prana flows in these channels and allows you to go about your day to day life.
When you experience stress, emotional pain and other negative emotions, if these emotions are not addressed and simply overlooked, you are unconsciously storing these emotions in your body.
Unfortunately, this is very common today. People repress their emotions and keep them all bottled up.
They block their nadis and emotional stresses then become physical pain and discomfort.
Ayama is to stretch, expand or control.
Taking 10 deep breaths has for a long time been a common method to calm down from anger, panic, anxiety and other emotions that steal your breath away.
If you notice, your breath naturally changes depending on your mood. If you’re feeling happy and uplifted, your inhalations are longer than your exhalations. On the other hand, sadness and defeat manifest as long sighs – your exhalations become longer than your inhalations.
So, if emotions can change the quality of your breath, can changing your breath affect your emotions?
In fact, there are many ways to manipulate the breath and all of them will yield different results.
On a hot summer day, this type of breathing will also cool the body, other examples of cooling pranayamas are sheetali and sheetkari pranayama.
If you want to achieve the opposite, shorter, more forceful breaths will energize and heat the body. Examples of heating pranayamas are bhastrika pranayama and kapalbhati pranayama.
The reason that you can control your emotional as well as your physical state with the breath, is because your body, breath, mind and emotions are all layers of a much larger system that is your existence.
Pranayama is much more than simple breathing techniques.
Going back to the nadis, regular practice of pranayama can clear your nadis.
That is to say, that pranayama can free you from deep rooted stress and anxiety, anger and fear, and any other imbalance you may be experiencing.
Paired with yoga and meditation, breathing techniques are a force to be reckoned with.
Your practice will take you from being absorbed in the world around you, to a union of your body, breath and mind. From here, you’ll have access to the Self and the infinite realm within.
Sometimes you may even find that you finish your practice in tears. This is very common and it means that you are releasing deep stresses and traumas. After your session, you will feel lighter and happier. Something will have shifted and it will be obvious.
A regular practice is a surefire way to heal deep rooted pain and this is where the true strength of yoga lies.
The benefit of approaching your psyche in this way is the pace. Soul-searching is not an easy task to approach. It can be violent, scary and downright dark. Most people shy away from it because of the magnitude of their past.
Just as easy as ten, long, deep breaths though, the practice of yoga will ease you deeper into yourself. It will comfort and reassure you as you go, making sure you feel safe and supported at every step. The journey is gentle and you have complete control over how deep you go.
Day to day, your burden gets lighter.
Soon, you’ll be walking taller, laughing more and approaching life with a positive attitude.
Along with the deep, soul-nourishing benefits of yoga, you will also sleep easier, enjoy more physical mobility and better overall quality of life.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.Haruki Murakami