benefits and how to practice yogic breathing

Discover the benefits of yogic breathing or Pranayama: reduce stress, improve lung function and increase concentration with breathing techniques also proven by scientific studies

Breathing is the basis of our existence, but how many times do we stop to consider how we breathe? Breathing correctly and consciously is fundamental in the practice of Yoga because breathing is real nourishment. To live and keep our body healthy, food and water are not enough. The air we breathe and how we breathe are equally important aspects. Let’s learn about the complete yogic breathing Pranayama in Sanskrit – , its benefits and how to practice it.

What is Yogic Breathing (Pranayama)

Pranayama is a word derived from Sanskrit where “Prana” means vital energy and “Yama” means control. Thus, Pranayama literally translates into controlling the flow of life energy in the body. This control is achieved through different breathing techniques that vary in intensity and focus.

Let’s think about it carefully. We can survive for a few days without water and without food, but we cannot survive that long without breathing. Our breathing is composed of two main phases, represented byinspiration, into which air enters from our body, and fromexhalationin which air leaves our body.

Between these two phases of breathing there is a natural pause that occurs spontaneously. Some yogic practices accentuate the importance of holding the breath for a few seconds with full or empty lungs but in complete yogic breathing this normally does not happen. Indeed, yogic breathing is complete let your breath flow calmly as if it were a slow wave.

What are the benefits of yogic breathing?

Complete yogic breathing helps us breathe deeply, with a constant rhythm and silently, all aspects considered fundamental for our health. The inspiration is retained the active phase of breathing, while exhalation is considered a passive phase, but in reality both these phases in complete yogic breathing are very important and should be practiced with awareness.

According to Swami Sivananda thanks to yogic breathing the body becomes strong and healthy; superfluous fat disappears, the face becomes luminous, the eyes sparkle, a special charm emanates from the whole person. Digestion takes place easily. The body becomes completely purified and the mind becomes calm. Constant practice brings happiness and peace.

Gabriella Cella Al-Chamali is “The great book of Yoga” highlights some benefits of complete yogic breathing:

  • Improves breathing capacity.
  • Tones the entire nervous system.
  • Increases the resistance of our organs.
  • Awaken a pleasant feeling of energy.

These advantages have also been confirmed by science in several studies. In particular, it has been demonstrated that yogic breathing brings the following benefits:

Reduction of Stress and Anxiety

Numerous studies have shown that Pranayama can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. One 2018 study, published in the journal “Journal of Clinical Psychology“, found that participants who practiced Pranayama for 6 weeks showed a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Improved Respiratory Function

Regular practice of Pranayama can improve lung function and breathing capacity. A 2019 study published in “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” he highlighted Significant improvements in participants’ lung function after 8 weeks of Pranayama practice.

Increased Concentration and Mental Clarity

Pranayama is often used as a preparation for meditation, as it helps center the mind and improves concentration. A 2017 study showed that regular practice of Pranayama techniques can increase cognitive function.

Improved General Wellbeing

In addition to specific benefits, regular practice of Pranayama can improve overall well-being and quality of life. A study published in the journal “PLOS ONE” in 2020 he noted that participants who practiced Pranayama for 12 weeks reported an overall improvement in quality of life.

How to practice complete yogic breathing

All Yoga practices, including complete yogic breathing, must be performed without tension and in a very relaxed manner. Complete yogic breathing it has no contraindications. The advice is to sit or lie on your back for a few minutes trying to feel the points of the body where tension is present and gradually relax them, bringing the breath towards a calm phase before starting the actual complete yogic breathing.

Complete yogic breathing is divided into three phases: diaphragmatic breathing, thoracic breathing and clavicular breathing. In complete yogic breathing these three phases become a single flow, but before starting you can try practicing them one at a time to realize the differences.

Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing

The abdominal breathing involves the diaphragm. During inhalation the diaphragm moves downwards and then returns upwards with exhalation. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is the basis of breathing as it helps us to make full use of your lung capacityslow down your breathing naturally and promotes relaxation. In abdominal breathing the air reaches the lower part of the lungs.

Thoracic breathing

In the thoracic breathing during inhalation our ribs move outwards creating a phase of expansion. We can place our hands on the sides of the rib cage during complete yogic breathing to feel this movement. With thoracic breathing the air reaches the central part of the lungs.

Clavicular breathing

Thanks to clavicular breathing the air we introduce into our body goes towards the upper part of the lungs. The upper part of the chest and the clavicles expand and then return to their natural position with exhalation.

These three phases of breathing occur spontaneously in our daily lives. For example, breathing is abdominal and slower when we are relaxed while it is thoracic or clavicular when we are very tense, afraid or stressed. This is why in situations of anxiety and stress, slow and deep abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing helps with relaxation: the slow movement of breathing calms the body and mind.

Per practice complete yogic breathing you can lie down on your Yoga mat in a supine position or sit cross-legged. Whether lying down or sitting, you can decide to place your hands on your abdomen and gradually move them towards the chest and collarbones to follow the different breathing phases.

Otherwise, while sitting you can rest your palms or the backs of your hands on your knees, while when lying down the advice is to leave your arms at the sides of your body with the palms of your hands facing upwards.

To practice complete yogic breathing you can perform, for example, a cycle of 5 or 10 repetitions. Each repetition consists of inhalation and exhalation.

Relax and close your eyes. Get ready for the phase inspiration. Inhale slowly and deeply starting from the abdomen, then moving to the chest and towards the collarbone area, up to the throat. The movement of the abdomen and chest must be one of outward expansion.

L’exhalation it proceeds by releasing the air starting from the collarbone region, then moving to the chest and arriving at the abdomen.

In Gabriella Cella’s method for complete yogic breathing, however, there is a variant regarding exhalation. In this case, the exhalation starts from the abdomen (which empties first), and then moves to the chest and the collarbone area.

You can practice complete yogic breathing at any time of the day. It’s a anti-stress breathing, useful for relaxing when you feel tense or anxious. It promotes good rest, so you can practice it, for example, before going to sleep for a few minutes.

To avoid losing concentration, always keep your attention on your breathing as it rises and falls like a wave. Finally, if you can, keep your eyes closed both during inhalation and exhalation, to encourage concentration and relaxation.

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