Pranayama simply translated means extension of breath. Let us understand a bit more about it.
Prana is a general word given to anything that can be addressed as a life force. Anything that seemingly is animate has been addressed as Prani which means the one that has prana in it. Ayama means expansion.
Prana: Life Ayama: Enhancement
Pranayama means an effort to enhance that energy called ‘life’ in each and every cell of our body. Any action that can address this can be called as Pranayama. So the word itself is so suggestive of its meaning.
1. To Remain Stressless
The autonomic nervous system is composed of two parts: the parasympathetic system and the sympathetic system. You can think of the parasympathetic system as the one that causes us to relax while the sympathetic system is what engages our “fight or flight” response.
In today’s society, we generally have a problem with over stimulating the sympathetic system which puts us in stress. Stress is known to lead to a host of diseases and body pains, some of which even life are threatening. While stimulation of the sympathetic system at the proper time can save our lives from harmful situations, overstimulation can lead to incredibly harmful effects on our health.
It is known that regular practice of pranayama exercises increases parasympathetic tone, and decreases sympathetic activity.
Pranayama relaxes you — which is far more beneficial than just a feel-good vibe. For most of us, we don’t stimulate our parasympathetic systems nearly enough. Consistent practice restructures your autonomic nervous system so that you are engaging your parasympathetic system in equilibrium with your sympathetic system.
In short — stress less, relax more and be healthy.
2. Cleanses Tissue
We have approximately 70% of the fluid in our body — known as “interstitial fluid”— moving freely around our vessels, organs, and cells. Pranayama increases the velocity of these fluids moving through the tissues of our body which creates an alternating “saturating and wringing” effect. This cleanses our tissue while increasing the number of nutrients absorbed and furthering the cleansing process of the lymphatic system.
3. Cleanses Lungs
Pranayama cleanses out our lungs, in that it empties the bottom area of our lungs completely. Gravity tends to pull material to the bottom of nearly all things, where it can build up to cause harmful effects. The same can happen to your lungs when the bottom area is not being emptied and “cleansed” so to speak. Pranayama causes the build-up material to be released from this bottom area of your lungs, filling it with fresh nutrients to enhance the functions of your lung overall.
4. A Glowing Complexion
When you practice pranayama, your breathing becomes far more effective. This gives your body an extra pump of oxygen which leaves your skin with a naturally bright, healthy glow.
5. Weight Loss
The fast-paced lifestyle where little time is given to think about the implications of our eating habits and our bodies state of true hunger is masked by boredom or stress. Controlling stress will reduce stress-eating, and slowing down to become self-aware and thoughtful will encourage your mind to consider what foods are best for the body, and plan ahead to avoid fast-food stops. Several pranayama techniques have been shown to actually burn fat from the abdominal area, lower blood pressure, increase the function of the thyroid gland, and increase metabolism.
These are few of the many reasons to enhance the life of your physical, vital and mental existence.