Pranayama - The art of breath-work & focus on breath
Pranayama can be lengthy or subtle according to its three components, inhaling, exhaling, and retention. Though inhaling and exhaling may look like the most vital requirements, what matters most is retaining the breath. Holding your breath gives more time for your cells to absorb oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, expelling all the toxins from the body. This increases the capacity of your lungs. By retaining the breath and filling to the maximum level, you absorb Prana and give it ample time to be distributed evenly throughout the body. The process of retention may differ by the regulations of space, time, and number of breaths.
Effect of Breath Retention on Physical Body
Once you settle down in your most comfortable posture or any asana in which you can ease yourself, all you have to do is maintain the focus on your breath retention. Pranayama is the perfect regulation of breath retention along with awareness. Generally, a human has control over voluntary muscles in the body. These muscles are involved in the movement of body parts and locomotion of the body. Voluntary organs fall under the control of the somatic nervous system. Therefore, they have a high requirement for energy. On the other hand, Involuntary muscles, also known as smooth muscles, are found mainly on the walls of internal organs. Therefore, their energy requirement is low and falls under the control of the autonomic nervous system.
The significant difference between these two sets of muscles is that Voluntary muscles get quickly tired and need rest. In contrast, involuntary muscles do not get tired easily and at the same time can work continuously. Organs like the heart, lungs, intestine, urinary bladder fall under the category of involuntary muscles. Organs like hands and legs are voluntary organs. Both these categories of organs are linked with one vital force: “Energy or Prana”. Your Prana remains inside your system by retaining your breath and tries to spread in every corner within your body, thus energising each cell. This is precisely why we need to focus on Breath Retention in Pranayama. By practicing Pranayama, we can control our involuntary organs with ease.
Effect of Breath Retention on Subtle Body
The disturbances within the energy system or pranic flow in mind cause many diseases like stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, thyroid imbalance, insomnia, etc. Focus on breath retention or Kumbhaka can bring the energy system into harmony. Many researchers prove that by practicing kumbhaka in Pranayama. can prevent a wide variety of diseases
Whenever you retain your breath, your heart rate drops, and your blood vessels that lead to non-essential body parts like your leg muscles redirect crucial blood and oxygen to the brain. Oxygen levels start rising upon breath retention as the self-protective nature of the brain is activated and awakened. The brain opens up more capillaries which improve cerebral circulation. This passes on immense energy into the nervous system, also called nadis, and the brain's emotion center, also known as chakras. Breath retention allows your mind to experience a healing state known as a parasympathetic state by cleansing the nadis and activating the chakras. This state of your mind makes you feel rejuvenated and enables faster recovery from emotional disturbances.