How Pranayama helps in Stress

3 min read

Gist of this blog

Breathing process in brief

Stress mechanism in brief

Pranayama contraindications

Pranayama is an integral aspect of Yoga. Since it relates with the breath, it was in the spotlight during covid-revocery and its prevention.

Today Yoga is often presented as a panacea for all cures in this modern time. The Internet is flooded with content raving about the benefits of practising yoga – from fitness, lifestyle to profession, Yoga is increasingly becoming a go-to technique for lasting solutions.

After intensive research around the world, Yoga has certainly been proven to be highly beneficial in dealing with stress.

Pranayama in particular gives rather astonishing results when practiced to reduce stress levels. But how does it really work?

Breath mechanism

Let’s understand it using the concept of volume & pressure.   

How do you think the air enters into our lungs?

It is the atmospheric pressure which fills the air in our lungs. We are actually not making an effort to breathe in air.

When we exhale the pressure in the lungs is the same as atmospheric pressure (760 hgm) and the volume gets reduced.

As we start inhaling, volume in the lungs increases and pressure reduces as stated by Boyle’s Law. 

As per Boyle’s law : Volume and pressure are inversely related i.e  as volume increases, the pressure of a gas decreases proportionally, and vice versa.

Mathematically it is presented as P = 1/V

Simply put:

When we exhale = lungs have more pressure and less volume

When we inhale = lungs have less pressure and more volume

Our sedentary lifestyle and other life choices have made sure that we are pressurised all the time. Moreover a lack of physical exercise is making our body very dull which is not conducive for healthy breathing.

What we require is conscious control over breathing i.e pranayama, to reduce this pressure.

Stress mechanism

If we present stress mathematically it is PressureResistance i.e. more pressure = more stress.

The brain reacts to every stress as a life-threatening danger. What happens then? Survival mode on.

Your brain commands the body to get ready to either –

Fight with the danger or

Flight from the danger or

Just freeze until the danger passes

Stress triggers the release of the hormone adrenaline.

This makes the heart beat faster and expands the air passages of the lungs to take up more oxygen.

Paradoxically, the muscles that help you breathe tighten up during stress.

Now you end up hyperventilating, breathing at an abnormally faster rate causing the lung volume to go down.

Stress and breathing are inversely related.

If stress puts pressure on your lungs, reduces lung volume and makes you hyperventilate then guess what? This process can be reversed as well.

Pranayama practice has been proven to increase your lung volume and thus reduce the pressure and stress.

Some useful Pranayama practices to reduce Stress and its impact

  1. Pratiloma



Learn the technique here

  1. Viloma 1



Learn the technique here

  1. Anulom-vilom



Learn the technique here

  1. Bhramari



Learn the technique here

Contraindications to practise Pranayama

  1. Learn from a certified and experienced Yoga teacher only
  2. Never learn from amateurs, inexperienced sources or from youtube videos with no credible background
  3. Avoid practising advance Pranayama practices on your own
  4. Avoid practising on a full stomach
  5. Consult a medical practitioner in case of any prior respiratory, heart of neurological condition

It is important to note that breath is critical. In the rush to improve breathing, a lot of people attempt practising pranayama techniques.

A lot of people experience negative effects after pranayama and complain of discomfort or further health complications.

Practising Pranayama on your own can be very risky. Learn the correct methods and intricacies of ancient Pranayama techniques here.

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