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The Yogic Art of Breathing


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“As long as there is breath in the body, there is life. When breath departs so does life. Therefore, regulate the breath.” [Hatha Yoga Pradapika]

Nobody can live for more than a few minutes without breathing but many people are unaware of the importance of breathing properly. Many of us use only a fraction of our respiratory potential capacity.

The average human breathes between 12-18 breaths per minute. Due to anger, passion, exercise and anxiety, the respiration rate increases, straining the heart and decreasing the lifespan. The slow, deep breathing and retention of breath in ‘pranayama’ helps to compensate for the damage incurred by rapid, shallow breathing.

Pranayama is the conscious and deliberate control of the breath. [Prana means life force, ayam means to control or to regulate].Some common Pranayamas include ‘Bhastrika’, ‘Kapalabhati’, and ‘Nadi Shodhana’. Regular practice increases and enhances the quality and quantity of ‘prana’, clears blockages and results in the complete wellbeing of the practitioner.

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Before practicing the Pranayama exercises, you should be sure that you understand how to breathe correctly and make use of the diaphragm. In order to facilitate the flow of  ‘prana’ and ensure that there is space for expanding the lungs, Yoga breathing exercises are performed sitting down with the spine ,neck and head in a straight line, either in ‘Sukhasana’ [easy pose], ‘Padmasana’ [Lotus pose] or if neither is comfortable, then sitting on a chair.

Practiced correctly under the right supervision, Pranayama brings harmony between the mind, body and spirit. Since Pranayamas deal with the subtle force, it is important to practice them as taught by experienced teachers.

To sum it all up, Pranayama is actually just ‘breathing with awareness!’ Slow breathing increases lifespan while rapid breathing does just the opposite.

‘Slow and steady wins the race’ is the moral from the story of the hare and the tortoise, which is not just limited to the race!  The hare which takes about 120 breaths per minute lives for a few years while the tortoise which breathes 4 times a minute can live up to 300 years! Now that’s something to reflect upon till the next time!


Neelanjana Bharadwaj – Yoga Expert

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