What is Pranayama?
Prana is our life force, it's our energy, it's our breath. The fourth of the eight limbs of yoga refers to breathwork practices. Most of us understand breathwork as how we move through our physical asana practice example; when we go to a yoga class and the teacher says inhale, exhale, and remember to breathe. After an extended period of practice, we start to find our own breathing rhythm. However, this is not the only time breathwork is useful to us. The breath is not only utilised in yoga to deepen our postures it connects our mind to our body which is of immense value on and off the mat.
Have you ever cried or laughed so hard you can't catch a breath? Have you ever been so scared you stop breathing? Have you panicked so much that you are taking one million short shallow breaths but still feel out of breath and as if you are going to faint? What does everyone around you in these situations say? "Calm down, just breathe!" Our breath is so important!
Breathwork can help us to process emotions and pain, improve our personal and professional relationships, reduce anxiety and stress, cultivate happiness and joy, increase self-awareness, and develop our creativity. It can be used as a tool against chronic pain, depression, grief, and PTSD.
My favourite breathwork practice is taking 3 deep belly breaths. Inhaling through the nose and expanding the belly as much as possible and sighing out through the mouth (and make some noise here - get the shit that's holding you back or keeping you stuck out).
There are many other types of breathwork such as; box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, humming bee breath to name a few. Google it, youtube it, there are guided practices everywhere! Breathwork is not confined to your yoga mat it's a lifestyle practice. It's like playing a musical instrument if you don't practice you won't improve. Integrate breathwork into your daily life and reap the benefits.