The benefits of Pranayama are many as claimed by yoga texts and classical yoga Gurus.
Do Science and research accept these claims?
What are the benefits that one can expect in the modern approach to yoga for health?
And, What are the benefits that a spiritual aspirant can enjoy?
Let us examine.
Health Benefits of Pranayama
Physical Health Benefits of Pranayama
First, Let us see what are the physical health benefits.
There are many health studies that evaluate the benefits of Yoga and Pranayama practices together. Yet we could rarely find any study that evaluates the benefits of Pranayama alone. Let us explore such studies to determine the benefits of breath control practices.
According to Roopa B et al, a short-term practice of Pranayama and meditation results in a reduction in pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and mean arterial blood pressure.
A systemic review (Ref: 1) about the health benefits of obtaining the data from the studies published in PubMed, Web of Science, and SciVerse Scopus demonstrated a significant effect on Cardio-respiratory functions like improvement in pulse rate, respiratory function measurements, and systolic blood pressure in patients with bronchial asthma.
Also, a significant reduction in the frequency of attacks and medicine requirements was noted.
Moreover, there were improvements in symptoms, activity, and impact scores in patients with obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms.
This study also observed improvement in the quality of life in cancer patients.
Hence, this study concludes that presently available studies indicate the evidence of physiological and psychological benefits of Pranayama. It is mostly observed in patients with respiratory diseases. Moreover, it is also helpful in conditions like cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Psychological Benefits of Pranayama
Another study (Ref: 2) reviews fourteen studies that examined the influence of Pranayama on the brain and mind of humans.
Marshall et al observe that Surya Bhedana Pranayama would improve language in persons having aphasia. They suggest that alteration of nasal airflows modulates contralateral activation of brain hemispheres. The prolonged exhalation compared to inhalation may increase parasympathetic activity.
Vialatte et al demonstrate a significant reduction in theta activity during Bhramari Pranayama.
Rajesh et al found that Bhramari Pranayama may increase response inhibition that enhances flexible cognitive control.
From the above, it is evident that the practice of Pranayama is helpful to the health of both body and mind.
Spiritual Benefits of Pranayama
According to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the practice of Pranayama destroys the coverings of the mind and make it clear and suitable for further practices like Dharana.
Svetasvatara Upanishad, one of the oldest of the Upanishads, informs that the practice clears the dross of the mind and makes it fit for the meditation on Brahman.
Almost all the yoga Upanishads glorify the practice of Pranayama. The following is the list of the benefits as per Yoga Upanishads.
- Only by the practice of Pranayama, the mind can be controlled.
- Also, it destroys all the sins and helps to cross the ocean of sins to attain salvation.
- The practice helps to purify the Nadis, activate Kundalini, and also its course to the crown Center.
- Moreover, It helps to manifest the Nada.
- Above all, the practice prevents all diseases and ensures good health.
- By practice, a yogi can achieve superhuman feats like levitation.
- His urine and feces will be smaller. His body becomes light and at the same time stronger. Moreover, his sleeping time will become lesser. He experiences the absence of sweat and a bad smell.
- All people would admire him.
- His intake of food will be smaller than ever. Furthermore, he can control thirst and hunger for any period of time.
Jayawardena R, Ranasinghe P, Ranawaka H, Gamage N, Dissanayake D, Misra A. Exploring the therapeutic benefits of Pranayama (yogic breathing): A systematic review. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 2];13:99-110. Available from: https://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2020/13/2/99/283660
Campanelli S, Tort ABL, Lobão-Soares B. Pranayamas, and Their Neurophysiological Effects. Int J Yoga. 2020;13(3):183-192. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_91_19. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735501/