Under normal circumstances, our breathing is shallow and our lungs do not fully expand or contract; this restricts airflow.
The objective of breathing exercises is to ensure a maximum quantity of airflow, to provide more oxygen to the blood and exhaust carbon dioxide in an efficient manner. Pranayam is one such breathing exercise.
Holding your breath is the main component of most breathing exercises.Â This has to be done after inhaling or exhaling as it applies to the exercise in question.
The question here is whether it is beneficial to hold your breath.
When you exhale during normal breathing, the lungs do not empty completely.
The lungs contain a number of small pockets wherein the air remains stagnant.
Since this air is not a part of the main airflow, the fresh air does not go there and there is lower oxygen content in these air pockets.
The blood that does pass through the air pockets does not have fresh oxygen and the carbon dioxide level in the blood does not diminish.
By holding your breath after inhaling fresh air you provide sufficient time for the fresh and old air in the air pockets to mix.
The fresh air replaces the stale air. Similarly, holding your breath after exhaling stale air creates a low pressure in the lungs and pushes out more stale air.
The net result is more fresh air in the capillary-rich sacs in your lungs.
While practicing pranayam you must increase not only breath holding duration but also the frequency of inhaling and exhaling.
While doing breathing exercises like pranayam, your concentration should be focused on your breathing and visualization of airflow.
When you inhale, you must think of drawing in prana (life force) in addition to fresh oxygen. When you hold your breath, you should visualize the absorption of prana in large quantities.
While exhaling you expel the toxins and evil thoughts. In this period, prana is distributed throughout the body. The effectiveness of pranayam is increased when you incorporate visualization.
Your concentration is improved when you hold your breath because you focus solely on your breathing.Â Deep breathing and other exercises where you hold your breath also exercise the diaphragm.
It is advisable to practice pranayam under the guidance of an expert.Â With their input you will better understand the purpose and goal of the exercises, which in turn will lead to better results.