Breathe Life into Your Practice: What is Pranayama?

If you’ve ever practiced yoga, chances are that your teacher has led you through some intentional breathing exercises. You may be wondering what these techniques do for our body—they are part of Pranayama, a powerful yoga practice that helps balance both mind and body. Let’s explore the amazing benefits this ancient practice has to offer!

Pranayama: Meaning and Definition in Yoga Philosophy

Pranayama is formed of two words: “prana” and “ayama”. Prana, or “life force energy is found in everything around us and it is more subtle than simply air! Ayama means “extension” or “expansion”. When you bring these two concepts under one term — pranayama means the “expansion of the life force”. Much more than just breathing!

According to yoga philosophy through stilling our mind and allowing prana to freely flow through its channels, we can open the doorway towards spiritual growth potentially discovering limitless possibilities within ourselves.

What Is Pranayama?

It can be hard to keep up with all the aspects of ourselves: physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. But did you know that according to yoga philosophy we each have an “energy body”? Just like our bodies need nourishment to stay healthy and strong – so does our energy! Pranayama is a practice designed specifically for this very purpose; it helps us revitalize and maintain balance within our Pranayama Kosha, the “energy body”. Stressful events, poor diet choices, or too little rest can quickly lead to depletion of prana which in turn weakens vital organs leading ultimately towards illness or metabolic disorders. With regular practice, however, these negative effects are reversed by restoring harmony to the energetic system as well as life overall. 

Why Pranayama Is Not Simply a Breathing Technique?

The way we breathe impacts not just our physical body, but also our emotional and mental well-being. On average we take 15 breaths per minute – that’s 2,600 daily! Every single one helps keep us alive by supplying oxygen to all parts of the body.

Pranayama goes one step further: it uses breathing to influence the flow of prana in the energy channels of the body by establishing regular breathing patterns and drawing on deeper lung capacity than many people use normally.

Far too often we don’t realize how our breath may be restricted. This is why through conscious breath control, pranayama practices can help free up energy that is locked away in unhealthy patterns, allowing us to be more relaxed and pour our focus into creative endeavors or personal growth. Yoga philosophy also encourages oxygen and prana intake as an essential part of maintaining balance and a healthy lifestyle –  so be mindful of your breath!

Pranayama Techniques

From Nadi Shodana Pranayama to Surya Bheda Pranayama, get to know the different pranayama types, how they work, and how they can benefit you.

Nadi Shodana Pranayama: A breathing technique that works with alternate nostrils, bringing more balance to the energy body.

Sheetali Pranayama: Slow and conscious breath control for cooling the body and calming the mind.

Sheetkari Pranayama: This pranayama is focused on exhalation and controls breathing for promoting mental clarity.

Bhramari Pranayama: Deep exhale humming with both nostrils closed to boost oxygen intake and reduce stress levels.

Ujjay Pranayama: A powerful practice to bring the focus of the practitioner inwards, while also deepening the breath.

Bhastrika Pranayama: Rapid diaphragmatic breaths that encourage better oxygenation of cells as well as the release of stagnant emotions.

Kapalbhati Pranayama: Vitalization technique that helps remove blockages in both subtle and physical bodies through a repeated inhale/exhale action.

Moorcha Pranayama: Alternate nostril breathing with pauses in between breaths to help shift consciousness into higher states of awareness.

Surya Bheda Pranayama: Balanced inhalations and exhalations performed through individual nostrils for calming anxiety levels.

How to Do Pranayama

Pranayama can be a powerful practice, but it’s important to approach it thoughtfully and responsibly with the help of an experienced teacher. When done correctly, pranayama brings balance into both your inner life – like your mind and emotions – as well as in how you interact with others around you. Discovering this ancient technique offers insights on many levels if undertaken wisely! 

Why you should practice pranayama

Through pranayama, we can create an incredibly positive impact on our lives. Not only does it help to alleviate the stress that may otherwise impede the flow of energy in your body, but also creates opportunities for transformative and spiritual experiences as you reach higher levels of consciousness! Why not take this opportunity to tap into the potential unknown with a practice that offers so much?

A few notes on Yoga Philosophy

Yoga philosophy is a source of insight and encouragement for anyone seeking to live more intentionally. It encourages us to see ourselves as part of something greater, while also emphasizing individual growth – through physical practice (asanas), pranayama, and meditation. By adopting yoga’s teachings in our lives, we can learn how to cultivate self-awareness, inner peace, and ethical behavior – allowing us the chance at true harmony with ourselves…and the world around us!


  • Saraswati, S. “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha”. 2008.
  • Swami, M. “Hatha yoga pradipika”. 2000.


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