Emotional and Mental Benefits of Regular Pranayama
Now that we’ve covered some of the physical benefits of Pranayama, let’s get to the heart of it and take a look at it’s effect on, well, the heart. The emotional one, that is.
When was the last time you truly tuned in to your body’s whispers? Pranayama is like turning up the volume of that conversation. It’s a gentle nudge to pay attention, a reminder that your breath is the bridge between your physical and mental self.
As you inhale and exhale mindfully, you’re developing greater awareness of the breath and also strengthening your interoception. This is the ability to notice internal changes and sensations in the body. This is what many teachers mean when they say “listen to the body”.
Emotions can be as wild as a rollercoaster. Different Pranayama techniques can help to lessen large emotional fluctuations, improving your emotional health. Controlled breathing isn’t just about air – it’s an emotional management system. As you regulate your breath, you’re flicking the “calm” switch in your brain, known as your parasympathetic nervous system.
Those runaway thoughts? That overthinking about all that could possibly go wrong? That survival technique you have of making up scenarios in your head so you can better prepare for unknown outcomes? Pranayama, particularly practices that fall into the “cooling pranayama breathing techniques” category alleviate a lot of this mental chatter.
Slow Pranayama Practices like Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious breath) have been found to help. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is another wonderful practice to try.
And it’s not just a hunch – science sings the same tune. Scientific research studies reveal how deep breaths can rein in anxiety and lessen stress. With Pranayama, you’re not just steadying your breath; you’re steadying your emotional ship.
But it’s not just there to help you calm down. What about on those days when we feel lethargic, disconnected, or even depressed? Or if you’re having a bout of daytime sleepiness that really just doesn’t fit with the day’s busy plans? In this case, heating pranayama exercises would be suitable. For example, Kapalabhati Pranayama or Sitali Pranayama would be a great way to restore some of that vital energy.
Mental Clarity and Focus
Ever felt like your thoughts were in a maze? For me, this happens the most in those moments before teaching a new class or giving a presentation. Any kind of public speaking and my mind decides to increase the chatter and increase the confusion.
Pranayama is your trusty compass when it comes to navigating mental focus. When you breathe deliberately, you’re kind of sweeping away mental fog. Those swirling thoughts? They start to line up, and helpfully often in a logical order, too.
This is due to the parasympathetic nervous system switching on, allowing the mind and body to relax a little, and bringing you into your window of tolerance. This is a term coined by Dan Siegel in 1999 to describe the state of feeling relaxed, grounded, in control, responding appropriately to what’s happening around you, and having mental clarity.
Some mixed-methods research suggests that Pranayama could even play a part in managing ADHD.
Pranayama’s potential doesn’t stop at clearing mental cobwebs. It’s like an energy drink for your brain, boosting concentration and focus.
Managing Depression and Anxiety
Pranayama holds the potential to manage the swings between anxiety and depression.
But it’s important to note that this is not about replacing therapy; it’s about joining forces. Pranayama could be a complementary tool alongside more traditional approaches to managing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. And, given that each one requires a different type of pranayama, it is essential that you learn with the guidance of a qualified instructor, after having received the go-ahead from your trusted medical professional.
In a nutshell, Pranayama isn’t just about inhaling and exhaling; it’s about emotions finding their rhythm, thoughts finding their clarity, and your mind finding its calm. So take a breath, and let Pranayama be your compass on this emotional and mental journey.
For more on the benefits of pranayama, check out this pose that covers six little-known benefits.