Pranayama for Mental Health
Pranayama stems from the Sanskrit word for - universal energy, "Prana' and control "Yama." It is a yogic practice that involves breathing exercises to harness universal energy. Whether as a part of asanas or as a precursor to meditation, Pranayama has been an essential part of Yoga and Ayurveda.
Breathing helps our cells access oxygen and is vital for our body's proper functioning. Prana exists in the air, and it helps our mind and body to sustain.
Several things we do, including how we breathe, affect the flow of energy through our bodies. The breathing techniques (Pranayama) help clear the congestion so that prana flows through our body without any obstacles.
What is Pranayama Exactly?
Pranayama is a vital aspect of yoga and has been around since ancient times. It involves specific breathing exercises that require you to inhale, hold your breath and exhale in a particular pattern.
Pranayama helps the body to stay in sync with mind. It helps the body harness energy that flows through the mind and body, removing obstacles and toxins. Besides benefitting the body, Pranayama is also good for our emotional well-being.
Pranayama and Mental Health
A healthy body with a stressed mind cannot be called healthy. To lead a healthy life, a healthy mind is essential.
As humans, our minds are always wandering, diving deep into fantasies, overthinking or having negative thoughts. Add to that a stressful work or social life that creates a bottomless void from which our minds have difficulty escaping. Taking charge of our mental health involves staying in the present and not letting our mind wander too much.
Pranayama is an effective way for our minds to stay in the present and dispel stress and anxiety through calming breathing exercises.
Types of Pranayama
Pranayama helps our mind and body to heal. Through controlled inhalation, exhalation, and retention of breath, not only can we help strengthen the respiratory system, but it also helps our mind from wandering off. Few examples of Pranayama that can be practiced are:
● Bhastrika Pranayama
This type of Pranayama requires you to take rapid short breaths, retain them and then deliberately exhale.
● Kapalbhati Pranayama
This breathing practice helps strengthen your respiratory organs by clearing congestion in the form of mucus. Translated as skull "Kapal" shining 'Bhati," this one benefits lungs and treats bloating.
● Nadishodhan Pranayama
One of the most common forms of Pranayama, this helps to treat anxiety issues and improve concentration. For this pranayama, we should breathe from the left nostril and exhale through the right and vice versa.
● Ujjayi Pranayama
Also known as victorious breath, Ujjayi Pranayama is often used during Yoga asanas for exercising the lungs. By fully concentrating on our breathing, this type of Pranayama helps to calm our mind.
● Sitkari Pranayama
Known to cool and soothe the mind and body, Sitkari Pranayama requires you to breathe through your teeth, making a hissing sound.
● Sitali Pranayama
Like Sitkari pranayama, Sitali is also soothing and calming for the mind and body. It helps ease your mind of stress and anxiety by inviting coolness into your body which allows you to relax.
Stress and mental tension are rampant nowadays, with most people turning to unhealthy means such as alcohol to cope; a healthier alternative is to take up Pranayama. The breathing practices involved are backed by science for creating mindfulness and calming your mind and body.
Important note: Always consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or a Pranayama Expert before starting your Pranayama practice.