The word pranayama from Sanskrit means “extension of the prāṇa or life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words: prana, vital energy, (noted particularly as the breath), and ayāma, to extend or draw out. We take an average of 20,000 breaths each day, but did it ever occur to you that you could be doing this incorrectly?
Emotions affect our breathing patterns in the same way conscious breathing affects our emotional state of being. As we get older we become more stressed. Being stressed actually changes the way we breathe. This means we take short, sharp and often shallow breaths.
When stressed the body releases cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that prepares the body for fight or flight mode to help us in the ‘fight’ we are about to face. Periods of increased stress can lead to increased incidences of asthma, allergies, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as of gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.
Chronic stress suppresses the immune system and over time will lead to a shrinking of the thymus gland. This suppression of the immune function leads to increases susceptibility to infectious diseases.
Hypocapnia (Carbon dioxide – CO2 deficiency) in the lungs and, in most cases, arterial blood is a normal finding for chronic diseases due to prevalence of chronic hyperventilation among the sick. CO2 regulates blood pH by acting as a buffer by its interconversion to carbonic acid. This means that the act of conscious breathing can regulate the bodies Oxygen and CO2 levels, bringing them back into balance and lowering cortisol levels.
I believe most people take for granted that breathing can be both autonomic as well as self-directed. The fact remains our overall health is intrinsically connected to how well we breath or don’t breath.
“I had no idea I was breathing wrong. Why didn’t I learn this when I was young!?” -Lenny after pranayama workshop.
The complete breath cycle includes 3 distant parts, 1) an inhalation (puraka), 2) suspension or retention of the breath (kumbhaka), 3) the exhalation (rechaka).
Sit with legs crossed comfortably (modification: sit on a chair with feet flat on the ground.
Spine is tall, straight and erect.
Shoulders rolled back and down away from the ears.
Close the eyes
Ratio – 1:1:1
Inhale: Through the nose while you count to 5 slowly
Retention: Hold the in as you count to 5 slowly
Exhale: Through the nose while you count to 5 slowly
Exhale all air, inhale normally through the nose
Lay on your back in Savasana (corps pose) and relaz dor 3-5 minutes. Optionally, sit in your chair for a few minutes in silence if practicing at work or in an office setting.
Practice Time: 3-11 minutes to start
Note: Avoid slouching and allowing the chest to cave in. It is important for the back to be straight and the sternum lifted for proper respiratory mechanics.