The Pranayamas of Yoga

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The fourth step in the Eight-Fold Path of Yoga is Pranayama, more simply known as breath control.

Your breath controls the energy within your body. While most people immediately think of inhaling and exhaling – there is more to it.

The Four Steps of Pranayama:

  • The inhalation
  • The exhalation
  • The transition between inhaling and exhaling
  • The continuous energy which is beyond, or behind the initial three steps

This way of breathing is practiced alone or along with the yoga asanas. When practicing both, you are reaching the highest form of purification and self-discipline for the mind and body.

Here are some benefits that are listed in an excellent article at Yogi Surprise, “10 Ways You’ll Improve Yourself By Simply Breathing“:

Balance Physical Reactions
Whether it’s something as mild as nervous fidgeting or something as serious as a full-blown panic attack, breathing helps balance these physical reactions in response to what your mind might be making you perceive as a threat to you.

Embrace Emotions
Emotions are physically felt. Breathe into them to let yourself feel them rather than using your mind to distract yourself from them and suppress them.

Tune Into Your Senses
If you want to see more vibrantly, smell more aromatically, touch more deeply, taste more exquisitely, and hear more clearly, then work on your breathing. Everything within reach of your senses will become more intense.

Improve Physical Strength
Whether you strictly stick to yoga or incorporate other forms of activity into your exercise regimen like weight training or cardio, breathing deeply in unison with the movement of your body can help you feel stronger and perform better.

Respond to Negativity
Ever blurt something out to someone who just criticized or insulted you without even thinking? If you can remember to take a deep breath first before speaking, you’ll make better choices in how you choose to respond to negativity.

Focus on Challenging Tasks                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Artists, scientists, business-people, and all sorts of other professionals can’t do their best work if they’re not 100% focused on what they need to do. If you have a job or hobby that requires deep focus and concentration, take a few deep breaths to clear out distracting thoughts.

Focus on Other People
When we want to impress someone, we get caught up in thoughts about ourselves, which prevents us from being able to place our full awareness on whoever we’re interacting with. Breathe as you gently shift your focus away from yourself to that other person.

Relax
Breathing is the fastest, healthiest, and most effective way to achieve total mind and body relaxation. Instead of turning to TV and other forms of mental stimulation, which don’t fully relax you, consider meditating on your breath in silence.

Connect With Nature
By connecting with our breath, we’re reminded that we’re connected to everything and everyone around us. Next time you’re outdoors, breathe deeply to clear your mind of thought and heighten your senses so that you can become more aware of that connection.

Fall Asleep Faster
A racing mind and a tense body can make falling sleep seem impossible. Both can be relieved by simply breathing. Try these three breathing techniques to help you fall asleep faster.
Curious about how exactly something as simple as breathing helps balance out the mind and body? Check out these five science-backed heath benefits of deep breathing.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Here is a great YouTube video that will walk you through it:

If you need a refresher, you can find the first three Yamas of Yoga here:

The Yamas of Yoga

The Niyamas of Yoga

The Asanas of Yoga

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