When you do Yoga, a lot of emphasis is there on breathwork
Everything starts and ends with the breath. When you think about it, breath is a reflection of the self. Next time when you are anxious or stressed out, just pay attention -- you’ll realise your breath gets rapid and shallow. Conversely, in the moments of peace, it is deep and slow. And in Yoga, there is an immense focus on breathwork, so much so that not only the practice begins by clearing your mind, calming yourself and bringing attention to the breath. In fact, there is a discipline within this age-old workout system specifically for breathwork, which is called ‘pranayama’.
“Bringing your total focus to your breath isn’t part of the practice. It is the practice,” writes Yoga guru and writer Naomi Annand in her book, ‘Yoga: A Manual For Life’. To illustrate the importance further, there is a form of Yoga, called ‘vinyasa’, in which you flow from one pose to the next at the pace of your breath. In fact, in any routine, instructions are clearly given on how you should breathe throughout the yoga practise.
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When you think about it, everyone breathes, be it a yogi or a non-yogi. Then, why is there such an emphasis on it in this mind and body practice? The answer might lie in the following:
When stressed out or worried, just breathe your troubles away. If you too get stressed out or anxious often, chances are you must have heard this advice either online or from someone around you. And, there might be a reason for that. A 2013 study showed that practicing pranayama regularly led to a reduction in stress levels among healthy adults.
If your mind often wanders around and you cannot stop its chatter, then you must give pranayama a try. A 2018 study showed that yoga with a focus on breathing increased the participant’s focus.
As you already know, pranayama helps relieve stress. This can result in better sleep. As per a study, those who practised deep and focused breathing for just 5 minutes experienced the slowing down of their breathing and heart rate, thus relaxing them for better sleep.
We all breathe, but mindfully. However, while doing yoga, you are told to focus on your breath. This makes you more mindful about the whole experience, the effect of which remains even after you are done with your practise. To back this up with science, a 2017 study involving students showed that those who practised pranayama became more mindful, and also saw an improvement in their emotional regulation.
Pranayama might also improve your lung function. A 2019 study showed that by practicing this deep breathing technique for an hour a day for six weeks straight might help with bettering your lung function. It might also help you with serious lungs-related conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
This is probably the easiest breathing technique you can do. After that, you can start doing a bit more complex pranayama techniques such as kapalbhati, ujjayi, etc.
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