We are onto the fourth limb of Pantanjali's Yoga Sutra. The previous three were the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), and asanas (physical postures). Pranayama or breath control comprises the fourth limb.
Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath. It sounds simple right but how often do you catch yourself holding your breath? Or taking short, shallow breaths? One more question- what is the first physical action you take to try to calm yourself down? I try to breathe. Just breathe.
Prana, in Sanskrit, is the life force. The breath brings oxygen to the body, revitalizing the cells. Without oxygen, we wouldn't make it very long. In the yogic tradition, the practice of pranayama produces tapas, or heat. The heat is used to purify the body and attain balance.
The practice of pranayama can have many benefits. Some studies claim the reduction of stress, blood pressure and heart rate. Increased circulation and reduction of cravings or desires are also stated. Personally, the practice of pranayama has helped with my allergies, stress and anxiety.
What can it hurt to try?