Saturday, 20 July 2019

APP REVIEW: Prana Breath


APP REVIEW: Prana Breath

Review by Casey Douglass



Prana Breath
If like me, you suffer with anxiety and other mental health stuff, the chances are quite high that you might have had cause to use some kind of breath-based relaxation or awareness exercise, just to see if it might help you to feel better in some small way. Recently I’ve been using the free version of the Prana Breath Android app to help me keep track of what I’m doing, and in this review, I will describe how the app works and what I think of the various options it offers.

The main app screen is a simple circle with some timings in the middle. Depending on your training program selection, these will respond to varying durations of Inhaling, Exhaling, Retaining etc. The free version includes eight training exercises, from Clear Mind and Harmony to Anti-appetite and Cigarette Replace. More are available with the Guru version, which I will come to later.

Prana Breath

Once you start your training program of choice, you simply have to breathe along with the instructions on screen. Sounds accompany each state of the breath, and after a few sessions, you will likely feel comfortable enough to listen along with the screen turned off. The sounds you hear are customisable, from the background sweeping sound to the phase transition, there are a number of choices to suit the listener.

If you have your own breathing session in mind, there is nothing stopping you from creating your own program. I created my own Square Breathing (4-4-4-4 intervals) training program as I’ve found this to be most useful over the years that I’ve practised it. Changing the length of the session, Ratio of breath cycle or Seconds per Ratio unit is trivial, and I was up and “breathing” before I knew it.

Prana Breath keeps track of your total time spent practising in the Experience tab at the bottom, awarding you a Total Level and telling you the time you’ve spent on particular training programs. This is nice, and backed up by more viewing options along the top such as a detailed Log and Graph view.

Prana Breath

Next to the Experience tab is the Reminders one, and in this you can set a reminder to perform a certain practice. This Reminder will appear at the set time with a Random Motivator phrase, just to give you a jolt to action if needed. A nice touch.

The free version of Prana Breath is advert free, which is so rare in this current time. There is plenty of functionality in the base-app, and it doesn’t pester you to upgrade to the Guru version. The Guru version does open up more options and settings to tinker with however:
  • Dynamic Training (being able to vary timings within a single session)
  • The ability to use more training programs and patterns
  • More detailed progress charts
  • Infinite training duration
  • Health tests to help you keep track of your progress
  • More sounds to choose between
  • Google Drive Backup
  • An Import/Export Data option

You can gain access to the Guru version by a small monthly subscription, or unlock it permanently by choosing between the prices of £7.99, £9.00 and £12.00, depending on how much you’d like to contribute to help the app. My own feeling is that by using the free version, you will soon be able to guess if you would like these extra features.

Personally, I’m sticking with the free version for now, as money is so tight that I can’t afford to spend anything on apps. I do think the payment options seem reasonable for a well-made and slick app. Some breathing apps are just basic timers and that’s it. Prana Breath genuinely seems to go above and beyond this, and the fact that the free version is ad-free too always gains my respect.

Prana Breath

The only draw-back I might envision for some is that they might want an app that is more secular in appearance, lacking the symbolism and sounds associated with more belief-based meditation. Even to these people I would say give Prana Breath a go, as it’s a great little app. It really helps me to practice my breathing exercise of choice without getting too lost in mentally counting the intervals myself.

As an example of when this comes in handy, I sometimes enjoy slowing and deepening my breath to a rate of two breaths or less per minute. It has been known for my mind to lose count, and I forget to breathe for sometime. When I realise I’ve drifted, I get a bit of a jolt, and this tends to undo any calming or relaxation effects I’d already experienced. So yes, Prana Breath does help with this, to a degree.

Does it help me with relaxation and anxiety stuff? Yes and no. I find I sometimes bring any tension or stress I’m feeling into the exercise I’m trying to do. Even with the best of intentions and awareness, in these situations, the breathing stuff sometimes makes me feel worse. At other times, it helps me to settle and feel calmer. The act of focussing on both breath and audio cues also slows my mind’s usual ruminations too. On balance, I find breathing exercises helpful, but at other times I’d rather just focus on my breathing and watch it rather than change its rhythm.

As always though, you should go carefully with health stuff. Breathing exercises might help some but they could harm others or make things worse. I’m not telling you that breathing exercises will help you, I’m just describing an app that helps me to time the ones that I like to use. Don’t self-treat or self-diagnose blindly, see your Doctor for advice and realise that you are responsible for your own health, and that you try things at your own risk. Be safe and be sensible.

Visit the Prana Breath website for much more information and detailed breakdowns of the various exercises. There are also links to some of the science behind why breathing exercises might help people with various health and emotional problems.

Prana Breath is available from the Google Play Store and the Amazon Store.

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If you found this review helpful, or think that it might be useful to someone you know, please share it on social media and tag them in. If you have any breathing exercise recommendations to try, please also let me know by commenting below or finding me on social media. I'm always on the lookout for new ones to try. Cheers.

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