Effective breathing is an integral part of the practice of yoga. In asana practise, the in breath sends oxygen to the cells of the body - the timing of the out breath can make it possible to stretch further, or to finally master a difficult posture.
Ultimately, without correct breathing true relaxation of the body and peace of the mind are impossible. Poor breathing affects the body in other ways - draining energy, causing immune systems breakdown, making the body more prone to illness and making the mind irritable.
The impulse to breathe is involuntary, controlled by the respiratory centre in the brain stem. Therefore, when we are breathing we are not concentrating on breathing. However, very early in life, the depth and rate of the breathing are brought under voluntary control, predominantly governed by our emotions. Fear, sorrow, depression and high excitement restrict the intake of breath. Angry people pant - to speed the flow of blood to the muscles, in case they need to fight. A person experiencing a sudden sharp pain may hold their breath momentarily to reduce the intensity of feeling until the spasm has eased.
Most people find it difficult to breath fully and deeply, which is the required breath technique for yoga. This is generally due to the individual's response to stress in their life. Often, when people first begin to use the full yoga breath, they feel a sudden rush of emotion. This emotion has been buried in the subconscious mind and stored in the body and conscious breathing taps into what 'lays beneath'. When you slow down the breath you slow down the mind.
Benefits of Pranayama
- Improves circulation / detoxification (basically a person that breathes better feels great from head to toe).
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Boosts immune system.
- Strengthens muscles and internal systems.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, lifts depression.
- Opens and balances meridian system.
- Slows down the mind, which will reduce the mind's chatter.