What is Pranayama?

“Prana” means “the vital energy in the body” or in simple terms breath, “yama” means to gain control over that. So, Pranayama refers to the  process through which one can obtain or achieve control over breath. Though pranayama is an important form of Yoga, learning it is not so easy. But once a person learns the correct way, it will help them to stabilize the body and the mind and improve awareness.

 8 types of pranayama are mentioned in Hatha yoga, which will help to make the body and mind healthy :

  • Bhramari Pranayama
  • Kapalbhati Pranayama
  • Bhastrika Pranayama
  • Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
  • Shitali Pranayama
  • Ujjayi Pranayama
  • Anulom Vilom Pranayama
  • Sheetkari Pranayama

Benefits Of Pranayama

Pranayama is an ancient method of yoga, which can be performed by anyone, anywhere. Practicing pranayama regularly, we will be able to boost up our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Mental illness or instability is the problem of the current generation and it is only going to worsen in the days to come because of the hectic and erratic lifestyle. If you are able to control your ‘prana’, you will be psychologically healthy and balanced - whatever the external situation in life.  Pranayama can also help to alter our emotional states, as it teaches us to calm or energize ourselves through controlled breathing techniques. Not only can it help to strengthen our respiratory system, it can also help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

What are the benefits of Pranayama according to science?

As pranayama helps in working on and improving the breathing techniques, the entire body benefits from the surplus supply of oxygen, which in turn helps to get rid of the toxins. Here are some scientific, science backed benefits of pranayama:

Helps to reduce stress

Concentrating on and controlling the breathing techniques can help to reduce stress and anxiety. In a study conducted in 2013, it was seen that pranayama helped to reduce stress levels in healthy young adults. It was found that pranayama helps to calm the nervous system, which in turn improves the stress response. The authors linked the easing of stress to the increased intake of oxygen that takes place while performing pranayam. As we know, oxygen is important for all the vital internal organs, including our brain and the nervous system.

Improves sleep quality

The destressing effects of performing pranayama can also help us to sleep better. In a clinical study, it was seen that practicing Bhramari pranayama (one of the 8 types of pranayama) for 5 minutes everyday helped to slow down breathing and heart rate. This may help to calm down your body leading to a good sleep. Another study performed in 2019, showed that pranayama also helps to improve the quality of sleep in people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to this, the study also suggested that regular practice of pranayama can aid in reducing snoring and day sleepiness.

Increases mindfulness

Most of us do not pay attention to our breathing - for us it is automatic. But practicing pranayama makes us concentrate on our breathing and become aware of it. This in turn makes us focus on what is happening in the present, making us more mindful. One of the study conducted in 2017 showed higher levels of mindfulness in students who practiced pranayama regularly against reduced mindfulness in students who did not perform pranayama. The researchers also suggested that pranayama helps to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide and increase the concentration of oxygen, which boosts and energizes the brain cells. This aids in improving mindfulness by helping to increase concentration and focus.

Reduces high blood pressure

Stress is known to be a major factor in increasing hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure. Bhramari pranayama is known to show benefits in reducing hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. This in turn helps to prevent various health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. A study was performed in 2014 with two groups - one with mild hypertension, consuming antihypertensive drugs and another with mild hypertension, consuming antihypertensive drugs and performing pranayam. The six week study suggested a great reduction in high blood pressure in the later group. This antihypertensive effect, according to the authors, is due to the distressing and mindful effects of pranayam yoga.

Improves lung function

Pranayama is known to improve lung capacity and to strengthen it - through its slow and mindful breathing techniques. It has the potential to heal all types of lung diseases. A 2019 study showed that practicing pranayama for 1 hour regularly for six weeks, had a significant improvement in functioning of the lungs - as seen in various parameters of pulmonary tests performed. The study mentioned that pranayama may be useful in improving many lung conditions such as: asthma, allergic bronchitis, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Enhances cognitive performance:

Pranayama is not only known to be beneficial for lungs but it also enhances your brain function. All types of pranayama are known to improve cognitive functions. Improvement in working memory, cognitive flexibility and reasoning skills was seen in people who performed slow or fast pranayam for 12 weeks - as per a study conducted in 2013. It was also seen that fast pranayama has the ability to improve auditory memory and sensory motor skills. The researchers link the improved cognitive performance to the stress lowering effect of pranayama.

Reduces cigarette cravings:

As we speak about lung health, pranayama is also known to reduce the cravings associated with cigarette smoking. A recent study stated that mindfulness associated with pranayama helps to reduce the negative effects seen during smoking cessation. Another study conducted in 2012 showed a short term reduction in cigarette cravings in people who practiced just 10 minutes of pranayama everyday.


Though pranayama offers various health benefits, it cannot be used as a treatment for any disease or health condition. Regular practice of pranayama can definitely help you to improve the connection between your body and mind. It is a great way to achieve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. But if you are a beginner, get guidance from a certified yoga teacher to learn the proper pranayama techniques and get maximum benefits from it.  And if you have any underlying medical conditions please consult your doctor before practicing any yoga asanas.