Pranayama: Ancient Indian Technique or Cultural Appropriation?

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Pranayama: Ancient Indian Technique or Cultural Appropriation?

Origins and Significance of Pranayama

Pranayama, a Sanskrit term meaning “breath control,” is an ancient Indian breathing technique originating from the practice of yoga. As the foundation of respiratory control, it has been recognized for its potential to prolong life, as documented in a Scientific American article published on January 15.

Scientific Recognition and Controversy

Scientific American’s recent focus on pranayama, particularly the Nadi Shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing) exercise, ignited an online debate. Some Indian critics accused the magazine of cultural appropriation, rebranding an ancient Indian technique with Western terminology.

“Another case of turmeric latte,” expressed Twitter user Renuka Govind, alluding to the commercialization of traditional Indian products in Western markets. “Pranayama of yoga called as ‘Cardiac Coherence Breathing’. Next thing we know, it will be patented and sold back to us terming it as superior way of living.”

Benefits of Cardiac Coherence

The article delved into the calming effects of controlled breathing, emphasizing the “one popular technique – cardiac coherence – (which) offers more detail about the ways that breathing exercises promote relaxation.”

Research suggests that cardiac coherence can stabilize the heartbeat and significantly reduce anxiety levels. The practice typically involves inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for the same duration, creating a 10-second respiratory cycle.

The Debate Continues

Prominent opposition politician and author Shashi Tharoor criticized the article as “a detailed description of the benefits of the 2500-year-old Indian technique of pranayama, dressed up in 21st (century) scientific language.”

While some individuals welcomed the West’s recognition of pranayama’s benefits, they urged researchers to maintain the original terminology.

Scientific American has been contacted for a response on the matter.


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