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Origins of Breathing: Pranayama

blog Nov 19, 2021
Origins of Breathing: Pranayama

Origins of Breathing: Pranayama



Originating from the ancient Indo-European language of Sanskrit, Pranayama is the practice of learning how to regulate and maintain your breathing.  Although today Sanskrit is no longer widely spoken, it has become the sacred language of Hinduism and of historical texts of both Buddhism and Jainism. 

Many words however like Pranayama that is still widely used around the world transcend time and place of origin and are passed on from Teacher to student and maintain that special connection with its historical roots.

Prāṇa means ‘life force’ or ‘vital principle’ or ‘energy’, and āyāma means ‘expansion’ or ‘extension’.

Today Pranayama can be practiced without religious affiliation. Its origins stretch back thousands of years, and it is interesting to note how it has remained a relevant tool to this day.

The current teachings of mindfulness originate from ancient Zen Buddhist meditation techniques that have since been secularized.

Pranayama has been practiced in Hinduism and Buddhism for thousands of years and is a fundamental pillar of their religious practice.

Lord Shiva, a Hindu entity, in paradigm with Hindu theology, is considered the Adi Yogi, the first teacher of yoga and Buddha is known to have meditated to reach enlightenment.

Hindus use meditation as a way of connecting to Pranayama, or the ‘supreme self’. Buddhists use meditation as a means to enlightenment, or inner peace and as such Pranayama is a pivotal and fundamental aspect of yoga and meditation.

Health at its core

It’s only when we think of breathing that we become conscious of it. Breathing in and out and allowing oneself to become fully emerged in one’s awareness of the present, the now, can have long-lasting effects on our day-to-day life.

Becoming aware of our breathing patterns and habits that we’ve developed, and then practicing simple deep breaths can have amazing benefits.

Deep breathing, medically regarded as diaphragmatic breathing, can have incredible health benefits not only psychologically, but physically as well.

Deep breathing and relaxation help stimulate and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a signal to your brain to help reduce any anxiety and alleviate the bodies need to use the fight or flight response.

When you breathe deeper, the lungs can have better gaseous exchange between the circulating blood, which means you can take in more oxygen and you can release more toxins from your body, which leads to clearer thinking and an energized, stronger body.

The key is to understand that whilst meditation claims all these benefits, it does take a while to be able to reap the rewards, because it’s a life-long practice, and that patience and perseverance in itself, is part of the greater picture proposed by pranayama.

Modern Times

Yoga is spiritual, but not religious, and whilst the practice of yoga and meditation do stem from religious practices, it is something that everyone is welcomed to enjoy today, to combat anxiety, and stress, and those negative things in life that we need help with.

So… take a deep breath in and breathe out, and let the reins of your life be dictated by your mind.


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