Pranayama: — Connection of breath and body, some scientific research.

Pranayama in an integral part of Yogic sciences. Usually the word Pranayama is used the context of manipulation of breath. But in the tradition of Yoga, Pranayama has a great amount of depth and breadth, it’s various techniques include several subtle elements apart from the simple breathing activity. The word Pranayama is a Sanskrit word, combination of two terms ‘Prana’ (breathing activity) and ‘Ayama’ (conscious manipulation). In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Pranayama is referred to as the manipulation of breathing patterns, ranging from deep and prolonged to gentle and subtle.

The practical aspect of Pranayama from a physiological point of view is intended to influence the functions of the body and mind. While modern science adopts a objective and reductionist approach to understanding concepts, ancient sciences seem to use a subjective approach. From a Yogic point of view, the body and mind are not separate entities, they are considered to be interdependent, and two different aspects of one entity. So the essence of Pranayama then is clearing the physical and emotional obstacles in our body and lubricating the flow of “prana” — life energy. The way that one moves, thinks, acts and especially breathes contributes to the flow and vitality of our lives. For example if one is angry, they might breathe fire quite literally. While at rest, the breath slows down and gets deeper.

Let’s try and understand what modern day science and objective methods of enquiry find from the study of Pranamaya techniques.

There are arrays of articles and scientific research papers quoting the benefits of yoga and pranayama, for this article the primary source is from :-

Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review by Pallav Sengupta

If you’re looking for more information and methods. It’s indeed recommended to check out the complete work with references at
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/

To talk about benefits in particular let’s examine a few cases, the case studies and citations are listed just below the screenshot. Please note this is definitely not an exhaustive list, but a simple compilation for easy reading.

  1. Heart

Mahajan AS, Reddy KS, Sachdeva U. Lipid profiles of coronary risk subjects following yogic lifestyle intervention. Indian Heart J. 1999;51:37–40. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Anand MP. Non-pharmacological management of essential hypertension. J Indian Med Assoc. 1999;97:220–5. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

2. Body Weight

Bera TK, Rajapurkar MV. Body composition, cardiovascular endurance and anaerobis power of yogic practitioner. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1993;37:225–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

3. Lungs

Madanmohan, Mahadevan SK, Balakrishnan S, Gopalakrishnan M, Prakash ES. Effect of six weeks yoga training for weight loss following step test, respiratory pressures, handgrip strength and handgrip endurance in young healthy subjects. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2008;52:164–70. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Madanmohan, Thombre DP, Balakumar B, Nambinarayanan TK, Thakur S, Krishnamurthy M, et al. Effect of yoga training on reaction time, respiratory endurance and muscle strength. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992;36:229–33. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Joshi LN, Joshi VD, Gokhale LV. Effect of short term ‘Pranayam’ practice on breathing rate and ventilator functions of lung. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992;36:105–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Makwana K, Khirwadkar N, Gupta HC. Effect of short term yoga practice on ventilatory function tests. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1988;32:202–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

4. Stress and Mood

Further controlled trials of yoga practice have demonstrated improvements in mood and quality of life for elderly, people caring for patients with dementia, and patients with epilepsy, especially when it’s a kriya yoga and pranayama based practice like Sudarshan Kriya and Shambhavi Mahamudra.

Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;1:189–201. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319995257_Effects_of_Shambhavi_Mahamudra_Kriya_a_Multicomponent_Breath-Based_Yogic_Practice_Pranayama_on_Perceived_Stress_and_General_Well-Being

To sum up there are a few research papers highlighting the benefits of Pranayama. Feel free to delve further into the journals, here are two starting points.

https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008250.pub2/full
https://www.msjonline.org/index.php/ijrms/article/view/3581

Or what better than taking up the some practices yourself and validate the claims on your own.

Feel free to share your experiences and experiments with Pranayama.

On a journey to share the magic of ancient learning, using tools of modern science.