Pranayama Research

Originally published January 19 2013

Studies show pranayama can be an alternate therapy for many diseases

by Caryn Connolly

(NaturalNews) No doubt, if you frequent enough yoga classes, at one point or another you will be exposed to pranayama. This is a form of yoga related to the breath and is promoted widely as a form of meditation and relaxation. What you might not know is that it holds many more benefits for a wide range of conditions.

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Pranayama exists in several forms, one method of which is Alternate Nostril Breathing. For those interested in learning this technique, also known as nadi shodhana, there are many excellent videos available online. Sometimes touted as a “beginner’s meditation,” it does take some practice to master. In the context of a yoga class, it is often used to equalize the left and right brain and promote deeper, more even breathing. Learning to control the breath provides benefits to the body that are both perceived, by the release of melatonin in the body, and physiological in nature.

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Some of the major findings over the past four years have shown a very real statistical improvement in blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure was unaffected, but the studies support the reduction of systolic blood pressure and therefore an overall blood pressure reduction. Other discoveries include lowered heart rate and a switching “off” of the stress response which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system over to the parasympathetic nervous system. Hemoglobin and red blood cell counts also increased significantly after a short period of practicing these breathing techniques. Another study showed a connection with reduced rates of obesity, diabetes, and even some psychiatric disorders. There is also an association with improved breathing in those suffering from asthma.

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Most of the physiotherapy studies have been conducted on Alternate Nostril Breathing and other forms of Pranayama in Nepal and India, places where meditation and yoga are traditionally practiced. Many of the studies were conducted using very small statistical samplings of 15-30 participants, although a few of the studies used up to 70. This is still a small sample size. The research varied widely in the length and scope of testing that was done. Various parameters were checked. Some performed blood work while others relied on blood pressure monitoring and heart rate monitoring. While this does not invalidate the results, more extensive testing might be able to convince the medical establishment that Alternate Nostril Breathing, other forms of pranayama, and yoga are all viable treatment choices and are preferable to immediately prescribing a prescription medication.

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