Pranayama is a practice of breath control in yoga that involves various breathing techniques and exercises to regulate the flow of prana (life force energy) in the body. The practice of pranayama has been shown to have a significant impact on mental health and well-being.
Pranayama helps to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve mental clarity and focus. By regulating the breath, it can help to balance the nervous system, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation. Pranayama is also known to improve overall physical health, including boosting the immune system and improving lung function.
Some specific pranayama techniques have been studied for their impact on mental health. For example, alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, while Kapalabhati (a breathing technique that involves rapid, forceful exhales) has been found to increase alertness and reduce feelings of fatigue.
Overall, incorporating pranayama into a regular yoga practice can be a helpful tool for managing stress, improving mental health, and promoting overall well-being. However, it’s important to practice pranayama under the guidance of a qualified teacher, as some techniques may be contraindicated for certain health conditions.
Classically, pranayama is said to be the transition between the outer and the inner world — the vehicle through which we internalise, feel the body, and experience our inner life. It is conscious breathing rather than deep breathing, and requires an approach based on self-observation.
We currently run a Sunday livestream Pranayama class with senior teacher, Richard Agar Ward, suitable for students with at least two years of regular Iyengar practice.