Pranayama: Yogic Breathing for Stress Reduction (and for easier Meditations)
Breathing techniques can help us slow our metabolism, alkalinise our body, activate our rest-and-digest nervous system response and change our brain chemistry to release mood regulating hormones.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is a yogic breathing technique aimed at controlling and expanding our vital force though controlling the breath. Prana is sanskrit for vital energy or life force. Ayama means expansion.
How can we expand our energy by controlling the breath?
When we breathe slowly, we can allow our body to absorb more oxygen with fewer breaths and this is more energy is efficient. In nature, we can see a correlation between the breaths per minute and the life span of animals.
The slower we breathe, the longer we live.
Pranayama Breathing can flush out stress hormones in minutes
We can get rid of the stress hormone with slow breathing* Slow breathing will slow our heart rate, metabolism, flush out cortisol (stress hormones), produce endorphins and oxytocin (pleasure and empathy hormones). Mind are body are interconnected!
*A study by Sarah Laza at Harvard Med School showed that 10 mins of slow breathing eliminated traces of cortisone. Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 10 seconds (a 1: 2 ratio) — See an experienced teacher before practicing.
Breath control can hack your nervous system
The respiratory system is the only life support system that we can control at will (unlike digestive or cardiovascular). When we control the breath, influence the autonomic nervous system. The breathing process is a sort of backdoor to hack into our biology. We can grain control over our mental state through modifying our breath.
If you are agitated and start breathing slowly it will make you calm and relaxed — it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, in charged of the “rest and digest” mode.
Breathing practices as an easier way into Meditation
The practice of pranayama requires focus. Pranayama helps us prepare developing our concentration as the practice requires different breathing counts and holding the breath for a number of seconds. When we focus our mind in one point (like the breath) we easy into the meditative state.
“Doing Meditation is like eating rice, you have to cook it first”.
My yoga teacher once explained. In traditional Yoga we start with the practice of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama to condition the body and mind and ease the way into a steady Meditation.
There are 8 type of pranayama techniques and each one offers different benefits.
You can read about them in my ashram’s website here,
About the teacher:
Rio Otoya has practiced yoga and meditation for over 10 years, certified as a teacher and advanced practitioner in India. He has given talks and workshops internationally at events and retreats.
Rio started his career in London as an artist and later as a facilitator, community builder and startup programs manager with Google Launchpad. He taught meditation and yoga for gPause, Google’s mindfulness initiative. [Read more here]
“Yogic Breathing — Easy way to Meditation” taught me wonderful techniques I can use to relax into the meditation on the days when it’s more difficult to do so. Having tried the breathing exercises before meditation and also before sleeping, I had experienced the benefits they cause. I would recommend anyone to try out as they are very simple. — Google Employee
Rio is a fantastic teacher who can break down complicated and hard to grasp concepts very clearly and makes the learning effortless and fun.
I am very grateful with Rio. He guided me through the power of my own breathing and guarded the place (energetically and physically), actions that gave the freedom to focus completely in the work within me. He acted as guardian and as a emotional lighthouse, using different tools for me to rode the breathe journey: inspirational music, perfume oils, incense, and his own voice. I felt completely secure to go deeper into my own shadows and light. Powerful stuff. I completely recommend Rio, and I hope I will do another breathwork with him pretty soon.
Mauricio Gil — Entrepreneur and Photographer