Asanas refer to the poses that form part of a yoga practice. Of the various types of yoga, Hatha is the most popular and is synonymous with the totality of yoga and forms the basis of all other styles of yoga. Although the focus of many types of yoga is on the asanas, yoga would be just another physical activity if it did not include the other subtle elements – breathing, meditation, purification techniques, mudras and bandas, which assist the body to create a union with mind and spirit, enhancing awareness, well-being and balance.
The word Pranayama is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – Prana – life force or breath- and ayam – meaning control.
Pran – the bridge between body, mind and consciousness. Breath and mind are closely connected.
(According to Ayurveda, breathing is the physical part of thinking and thinking is the psychological part of breathing. Every thought changes the way we breathe and every breath changes the way we think. Through the practice of Pranayama – control of breath- we can gain control over the mind.
Breathing is the single most important thing we do every day, and probably the one we pay the least attention to but correct and focused breathing has many health benefits and is actually a really simple way to improve our lives.
Focused/controlled breathing can improve brain function and stimulate brain growth, improve the cardiovascular system, lower stress and blood pressure, improve immune function and reduce anxiety levels. Pranayama can help to regulate emotions, from sadness to anger and even alter gene expression, and it can be done anywhere. Increased oxygen flow, release of toxins and even reduction of pain are just a few of the benefits of attentive breathing techniques.