What does Pranayama mean?
In a word by word translation, the term Pranayama describes the expansion or control of breath respectively life force (prana = breath, ayama = expansion or control).
Pranayama consists of surprisingly basic breathing exercises that, when done regularly, have deep physical, energetic and emotional effects.
The first step is to develop an awareness for the breathing mechanism and the muscles related to this, as breathing normally happens on a subconscious basis. Following this preparatory period, the exercises are extended and also the halting of the breath (“kumbhaka”) is included in the practice.
What are the effects of Pranayama?
On the physical level, pranayama when done on a regular basis increases the respiratory volume as well as the oxygen saturation of the tissues. Important muscle groups, for instance those of the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles, are strengthened.
Energetically, pranayama results in a targeted increase and better distribution of the life force (prana) in the body.
By establishing new breathing patterns existing connections between emotional states, for instance fear or anger, with limiting ways of breathing are disbanded, and these negative emotions weakened. In this sense, pranayama as practiced for millenia in India is one of the oldest forms of breathing therapy.
There are pranayama techniques that have defined therapeutic indications. Others have a soothing and calming effect in a more general way. Other techniques primarily increase vitality.