Yoga can be practised in various forms – asanas or postures, meditation, positive affirmations, and pranayama or breathing exercises. All forms of yoga have countless advantages and can benefit human beings to the fullest if they practise any of these forms sincerely and consistently. In this article, we will specifically learn more about the benefits of practising pranayama, the safest and relatively easier forms of yoga. We will specifically examine if pranayama can help ease anxiety in people, which is the root cause of many psychological illnesses, and some physical disorders too. Additionally, anxiety and stress can affect anbody – be it students preparing for their exams, adults trying to deal with difficult situations at their workplace, or senior citizens who are worried about their children, and so on.
Let’s now study what pranayama can do to reduce or lessen anxiety and stress in people. The Sanskrit word pranayama means controlling breath, and breath is controlled using various techniques and breathing exercises. First of all, unlike other forms of exercises, pranayama or breathing exercises can be performed by anybody regardless of their age or other physical condition.
Research published in 2005 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that yogic breathing is one of the unique ways of treating psychological and stress-related disorders. The study particularly focussed on the impact of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, which includes cyclical yogic breathing patterns, on various stress-related disorders. This research study revealed that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has the potential to lessen anxiety and stress-related disorders in people. Another research paper published in 2013 in the International Journal of Yoga talks about the very many benefits of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga. In this research study, secondary research was conducted on the primary research that was already done to examine the impact of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga in treating various clinical conditions. The research paper claimed that there is substantial evidence to suggest that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, a form of pranayama, can be beneficial in treating anxiety and various stress-related disorders.
Likewise, studies published in 2010 in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology studied the impact of Anuloma Viloma, another pranayama technique, on 30 Indian male senior citizens. This research study revealed that Anuloma-Viloma pranayama had a positive impact on the participants of research. The participants were trained in the Anuloma-Viloma technique for seven days in a yoga camp. Thereafter, the participants were requested to regularly practise the pranayama technique for three months. Their anxiety levels were measured (using the Sinha Anxiety Scale and Beck Depression Inventory) before and after practising pranayama. Results showed that their anxiety and depression levels had gone down after practising the Anuloma-Viloma pranayama regularly for three months.
While there are studies that reveal the potential benefits of practising pranayama or breathing techniques to tackle anxiety-related issues, some research studies have not been able to arrive at any concrete conclusion. Some other research studies claim that pranayama could be good for patients suffering from anxiety arising out of physical medical conditions, but it may or may not be very beneficial for those suffering from general and prolonged anxiety-related disorders.
While research suggests that practising pranayama has several benefits in general, we recommend that you seek a medical opinion (if you are suffering from any physical or psychological condition) before you choose to practice pranayama or any other form of yoga. While practising pranayama is safe and can help improve the quality of your life, we recommend that you practise it under trained and qualified yoga teachers.
Brown, Richard P., and Patricia L. Gerbarg. “Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11.1 (2005): 189-201.
Gupta, Pranay Kumar, et al. “Anuloma-Viloma pranayama and anxiety and depression among the aged.” Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology 36.1 (2010): 159-164.
Sengupta, Pallav. “Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review.” International Journal of Preventive Medicine 3.7 (2012): 444–458. Print.
Kirkwood, Graham, et al. “Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 39.12 (2005): 884-891.
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