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Pranayama and Therapeutic Breathwork
Pranayama is the yogic science of breath and energies control. It consists of a series of themed breathing techniques intended to keep the body and mind in healthy harmony.
Throughout history, healers have discovered the power of breathing to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Although originally a sacred practice, in contemporary times pranayama is used by anyone who wishes to access relaxation and wellness.
Besides the physical benefits of pranayama, some scholars believe that this is the only means of achieving an elevated level of enlightenment and the yogic state of samadhi. Consequently, practicing consistently, is considered a crucial prerequisite in the practice of meditation and achieving inner stillness.
Prana means energy, life force or breath in Sanskrit and yama is translated as restraint or control. The word pranayama is therefore roughly akin to breathing techniques and it is a core facet of a robust and complete yoga practice.
In the step-by-step yogic journey towards inner stillness, Pantajali’s eight limbs of yoga, pranayama is placed in the fourth position between, asana (posture) and pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). This practise is essential for the limbs of dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).
Alongside asana, pranayama is the highest form of purification, preparation and self-discipline for the mind and the body. Its role is to measure, control and direct the breath and our vital energy (prana) to facilitate the inward journey into the subtle body. This will lead to the state of meditation and consequently to the quieting of all thoughts, samadhi.
What can Pranayama do for me?
Through exploring breathing techniques, we can learn how to locate and connect with the breath, understand the anatomy and the mechanism of the breath, find the rhythm of our breath, and understand how energy moves around our bodies. It improves our relationship with our breathing patterns to induce calm and relaxation and in turn we find a pathway to peace.
This exploration takes time and can be complex. Therefore, the study of pranayama needs to be done in a methodical and considerate way. Pranayama taught the right way is led with subtlety and curiosity. When we learn in a calm and respectful manner, the results are more potent as we are in the right state of mind to engage with concepts such as inner stillness.
Can it be used as a therapeutic tool?
Traditional yoga teaches that the breath is a bridge between the body and the mind and has profound effects on both. The spiritual powers of the breath induce relaxation, stability, and balance. Nowadays, besides their spiritual purposes, breathing correctly have more holistic and therapeutic roles in our lives and have become crucial components in our efforts to maintain physical and mental health.
Learning to work properly can have positive effects on a wide variety of ailments. For example, Laurent offers pranayama for anxiety, insomnia and cancer sufferers.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has also shifted our collective consciousness onto the essential nature of the breath. For those suffering from Long Covid and breathing difficulties, breathlessness caused by a spectrum of health conditions and illnesses, it can be a useful tool in the management of symptoms.
What are the therapeutic benefits of Pranayama and Breathwork?
- Indispensable tools that help us build a safe and strong physical practice (yogic or non-yogic)
- Decreases feelings of stress and tension.
- Reduces anxiety and depression.
- Soothes the nervous system.
- Aids muscle relaxation and pain management.
- Helps oxidize the blood and enhance the respiratory system.
- Helps to control and change the levels of O2 and CO2 to influence body functions.
- Helps the good function of the lymphatic, urinatory, excretory, digestive, immune, circulatory, endocrine systems.
- Slows down the heart rate and enhance the cardiovascular system.
- Increasing energy levels and boosting the immune system.
- Lowers and stabilizes blood pressure.
- Increases energy levels.
- Helps the fight of breathlessness caused by pulmonary diseases, asthma or long Covid.
- Helps the fight against insomnia and sleeping disorders.
- Helps and support the mind and body during challenging illnesses and treatment.
- Develops body awareness, concentration, mindfulness, focus, and stamina.
- Support and lead to Meditation practices, yoga Nidra and specific deep relaxation.
Laurent’s breathing teachings combine ancient wisdom with contemporary insight. His pranayama and breathwork group and private classes are designed to be practical, easy to understand, and supportive in long term.
His step-by-step friendly approach makes his classes popular with all levels of student; from the beginner with no previous experience to the yoga teacher in search for deepening their practice and knowledge.