Both beginning and advance practitioners of yoga can vouch for the benefits of the breathing technique ‘Pranayama,’ the centuries-old Sanskrit word that can be loosely translated as ‘breath control.’ But an article in Scientific American has triggered an online debate after rebranding the yoga exercise as ‘Cardiac Coherence Breathing.’
To its credit, the article lists the benefits of certain breathing techniques, which, it says, are effective against anxiety and insomnia. It further specifies how “Pranayama (breath retention) yoga was the first doctrine to build a theory around respiratory control, holding that controlled breathing was a way to increase longevity.”
“As early as the first millennium B.C., both the Tao religion of China and Hinduism placed importance on a ‘vital principle’ that flows through the body, a kind of energy or internal breath, and viewed respiration as one of its manifestations. The Chinese call this energy qi, and Hindus call it prana (one of the key concepts of yoga),” an excerpt from the article read.
But it goes on to focus on one “popular” breathing technique, ‘cardiac coherence,’ which, it said, “promotes relaxation.”
“Cardiac coherence’s stabilization of the heartbeat can dampen anxiety powerfully,” the article stated, adding, “A typical cardiac coherence exercise involves inhaling for five seconds, then exhaling for the same amount of time (for a 10-second respiratory cycle).”
That description, to many in the online world, sounded like Pranayama and not a new scientific discovery. No wonder Indians were miffed with the western rebranding of the breathing technique.
After Scientific American tweeted a photo of a man who appeared to be doing Pranayama alongside a caption stating, “Cardiac coherence breathing exercises can stabilize the heartbeat and have a powerful ability to dampen anxiety,” online reactions were swift to come.
Politician and prominent author Shashi Tharoor was among those who were clearly upset at the western “dressing up,” writing: “Detailed description of the benefits of the 2500-year-old Indian technique of pranayama, dressed up in 21st c. scientific language as ‘cardiac coherence breathing’! It's taking the West a few millennia to learn what our ancients taught us millennia ago, but hey, you're welcome...”
“Another case of Turmeric Latte. 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. Just saying it existed in ancient cultures is not enough,” one Twitter user commented at the repackaging.
“Yeah. It’s called ‘pranayam.’ It’s part of yoga. For once recognize something instead of appropriating,” remarked another.
One commentator reminded the publication that names are important, writing: “Hey we are glad you guys are using our age-old techniques and making it yours but use the real name guys. You can’t call cafe mocha liquid chocolate added to coffee and milk, the same way you can't call Pranayama - cardiac coherence breathing exercises.”
Another said it was great to see the West “recognizing” the benefits of Pranayama techniques but suggested “Let’s stick to their original names not Cardiac Coherence Breathing Exercises!”