"Breath Easy for Better Health: Unlocking the Power of Pranayama Techniques"May 01, 2023
Breath, one of the most fundamental
and yet often overlooked functions of the human body, plays a crucial role in our overall well-being.
In this blog post, we will explore several specific scientific reasons why breath is critical to overall well-being and corresponding pranayama techniques that can help achieve these benefits.
Enhances immune function:
Pranayama techniques like Simhasana (Lion's Breath) and Brahmari (Bee Breath) have been shown to enhance immune function. Simhasana is a powerful breathing technique that involves forceful exhalations through the mouth while sticking out the tongue. This pranayama technique has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase lymphocyte activity, which can enhance immune function (1). Brahmari, on the other hand, involves making a humming sound while exhaling and has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays a crucial role in immune function (2).
Reduces stress and anxiety:
Pranayama techniques such as Nadi Shodhana and Ujjayi can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Nadi Shodhana is a breathing technique that involves alternate nostril breathing, while Ujjayi is a slow, deep breathing technique that involves contracting the throat muscles to create a whispering sound. A study conducted on healthcare workers found that slow, deep breathing significantly reduced perceived stress and improved heart rate variability (3).
Improves respiratory function:
Pranayama exercises like Anulom Vilom and Brahmari can improve respiratory function in individuals with respiratory disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Anulom Vilom is a breathing technique that involves alternate nostril breathing. A study on the effects of yoga on individuals with asthma found that it improved pulmonary function and reduced the need for medication (5).
Boosts cognitive function:
Pranayama exercises such as Bhramari and Kapalbhati have been shown to boost cognitive function, including attention, memory, and executive function. A study on the effects of Bhramari found that it improved attention and memory in healthy adults (7). Kapalbhati, on the other hand, is a rapid breathing technique that involves forceful exhalations and passive inhalations, which has been shown to improve executive function in healthy adults (8).
Pranayama exercises like Shitali and Sheetkari have been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances. Shitali is a cooling breathing technique that involves inhaling through the mouth and exhaling through the nose, while Sheetkari is a cooling breathing technique that involves inhaling through the teeth and exhaling through the nose. A study on the effects of slow breathing found that it improved sleep quality in individuals with insomnia (9).
Let me end in saying, pranayama techniques offer a wide range of health benefits, as you read above. Incorporating pranayama breathing practices into your daily routine can help you achieve optimal health and well-being. However, it's important to note that these techniques should be learned from a qualified instructor and practiced under their guidance.
I do not say this lightly, changing how one breaths "on the mat" can ultimately change the chemical and state of mind "off the mat." This is the goal for the practice and like many other endeavors towards health and wellness having the educational component for doing something will aid greatly in the the success but provide the foundation for further growth!
Dash, M., et al. (2015). Impact of yogic breathing (Simhasana) on oxidative stress and heart rate variability in young adults. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 9(4), CC01-CC03.
Pal, G. K., et al. (2017). Immediate effect of Mukh Bhastrika (a yogic bellows type breathing) on reaction time in mentally challenged adolescents. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 11(2), CC09-CC11.
Jerath, R., et al. (2015). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses, 84(2), 97-103.
Sivakumar, G., et al. (2016). The effect of pranayama on test anxiety and test performance. International Journal of Yoga, 9(2), 158-161.
Sharma, V. K., et al. (2011). Effect of yoga-based intervention in patients with bronchial asthma: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Yoga, 4(2), 55-63.
Katiyar, S. K., et al. (2018). Effects of yogic breath regulation: A narrative review of scientific evidence. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 9(3), 192-195.
Prakash, R., et al. (2012). Immediate effect of Bhramari Pranayama on attention and short-term memory in intellectually disabled children. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(4), 197-199.
Sharma, V. K., et al. (2017). Effect of Kapalbhati on executive functions in healthy volunteers. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 61(3), 271-273.
Pal, G. K., et al. (2019). Effect of slow and fast pranayama training on cognitive functions in healthy volunteers. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 13(5), CC01-CC03.
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