Pranayam (also called Pranayama) is a Sanskrit word describing an ancient practice from thousands of years past.
Prana = Life Force Energy
Yam = Control
The alchemical symbol for air
Pranayam is the practice of self-aware breathing with focus, purpose, and control, allowing the energy entering the lungs to provide FULL effect to one's entire being.
Air is the element that keeps us alive before all the other elements of warmth/shelter, water, and food. It is a life force that refreshes and revitalizes our system, second by second. Pranayama is the practice that takes this element and owns it for all that it is worth. There are an ABSURD amount of benefits to gain simply from breathing correctly - here are just a few:
Increased levels of blood flow to the brain and the body - this in itself is a major key to allow our energy to flow more freely. When the brain gets more oxygen, we are able to slow down our thought processes and focus more easily. As such, this is a prevention method for various forms of headaches and the clutter of excessive thinking. When the brain and body are more highly oxygenated, their ability to heal themselves is supplemented and all of their other natural processes are heightened, such as decision making, intuitive thinking, informational absorption, muscle recovery, circulation, pain management, etc.
Decreased stress - When we take a deep breath down to the core below our belly button and fill our lungs completely, our system is flushed with ripe energy. When we exhale, the fresh energy shakes up the stagnant energy in our system and releases it, bit by bit. During this process, studies have shown that the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, allowing for a slower heart rate, smoother digestion, and muscular relaxation. From this activation in the nervous system it has been proven that cortisol (the stress hormone created in our body) decreases, which in turn allows us to relax and pretty much not freak out about life. And of course, holding a relaxed state of being allows for better grounds for learning, focusing, and creating.
Higher level of conscious awareness - That deep breath is a controlled movement. It draws the focus of our being inward to the process of continuous flow, charge, and release of energy that is in breathing. You will notice with practice that your mind switches from autopilot to Youpilot - your mind switches from a reactionary, habitual pattern to a calm, responsive state. The difference is that when one is reacting to their environment, they are simply channeling all of the energy that they are exposed to, heavy or light, and thus do not have much impact on their reality, but instead become a conduit to whatever it is they experience without much gain on a mental and emotional level. With this, it is easy to become bogged down by heavy energy and become lost. When one is in a responsive state, however, one is free to go through life picking and choosing what serves us and what we feel would be better left untouched - from thoughts, to food, to people... really any and all decisions that we are faced with from moment to moment.
Consciously breathing allows us to see the bigger picture of our reality, and step into the shoes that are the most comfortable to walk in along the journey of our life path. If, at the very least, you would like to take your mind and soothe it from a state of chaotic, habitual, and sporadic thinking to a calm, clear state of awareness and thought, check out part II tomorrow!
Please leave any comments, questions, or experiences about this practice below!