Above: Yuki Nawazaka
Pranayama is the original term for the breathing exercises of yoga. Prana means inhalation and is comparable to the word inspiration, which in certain contexts means to breathe in. Figuratively, Prana means vitality. Ayama on the other hand means stretching or extension. Put the two parts together and the result is ‘breath stretching’ that is linked to feeling better.
The benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama not only increases lung capacity and strengthens breathing and spinal muscles, it also airs out alveoli which are rarely used to their full capacity.
In addition, the movements of the thoracic diaphragm and intercostal muscles stimulate lymphatic circulation, which drains cell waste products and transports immune cells and certain nutrients.
And lastly, nerve receptors in the nose and chest relay information to the brain concerning the rhythm and depth of the breath. When the brain is ‘told’ that the breath is slow, smooth, deep and nasal, it interprets this data as indicating a low-stress situation. Reducing stress, or more specifically, the levels of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol in the blood stream, is beneficial to health and wellbeing as the prolonged presence of stress hormones suppresses the immune and digestive systems as well as mental functions like logic, learning and empathy.
Good to know…
It’s vital for beginners to learn the technique under the supervision of a well trained teacher as mistakes can cause problems.
Pranayama is used by many Elixr yoga teachers in their classes, so come along to a class and try one out elixr.com.au/trial
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