Pranayama is a form of involuntary, continuous action of inhaling, retention, and exhaling that can be controlled quickly or slowly.  The name Pranayama is Sanskrit for “extension of breath or life force”.  It is used in yoga to help clear and cleanse the body and the mind.  By controlling your breathing, your whole system becomes controlled.  This form of breathing is helpful as a first step in preparing for the meditation process.

There is great truth behind the saying, just take a deep breath; it calms us.  Oxygen is one of the most vital nutrients for our bodies.  Adding Pranayama breathing techniques to your daily life can bring about many positive and healthy changes.

Some Benefits of Pranayama include:

*Cleansing and purification of the respiratory system
*Aids in detoxification of the blood stream and organs
*Tones the nervous system and slows the electrical impulses and their responses in the brain
*Assists in digestion
*Positively affects the immune system
*Strengthen and purifies the mind, enhances perception
*Increases alertness of the mind
*Beneficial in treating stress disorders
*Relieves asthma symptoms

Although there are several forms of Pranayama, here are the basic steps of performing the exercise:

1.  Sit comfortably, with your back tall and shoulders relaxed.  Let go of any tension.
2.  Take in a deep breath in through your nose very slowly.
3.   As you intake air, pull your belly inwards while heaving out your chest. Keep your abdominal muscles tight.
4.  Hold the breath and count five.
5.  Then gradually exhale through the mouth and relax your abdominal muscles.
6.  Wait for two seconds and then repeat.

Note: there are some forms of Pranayama that are not suitable during pregnancy or for those who suffer asthma which involve long periods of holding your breath or those that involve contracting your stomach muscles.