After practicing Yama, Niyama and Asana one should go for Pranayama. Pranayama is made of two words “prana” and “yama”. Prana means energy or vital force and yama means control. Breath and Pran are two different things altogether. But we cannot see them apart from each other. Breath is Sthula (gross) and Prana is Suksham (subtle). Breath is the external manifestation of Prana. Therefore, Pranayama is “Control of Breath”. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.
In yogic point, Pranayama is basically series of exercises, which aims at bringing more oxygen to blood and to the brain. It not only regulates the flow of blood but also regulates proper functioning of thoughts and desire. The practice of this asana removes the obstruction, which encumber the flow of prana. It gives poise and tremendous will power. It generates lots of courage and confidence within an individual. Pranayama is an art and has techniques to make the respiratory organs to move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively.
Our lungs are divided into three parts:
- The upper part up to the neck.
- On both sides of the heart.
- The lower part.
When we take a deep breath, all the three parts of the lungs are fully charged with Pranic energy. Also, the circulation of this energy in the naval region and its flow into the middle section and thereafter its total penetration into the lungs is the main function of Pranayama. Ordinarily, all human beings breathe. But the breathing process of a normal person is different from the one who is practicing Pranayama.
Benefits of Pranayama:
Pranayama has the capacity of freeing the mind from untruthfulness, ignorance and all other painful and unpleasant experiences of the body and mind. Its major benefits are:
- It is helpful in the purification of all the nadis (channels through which energy flows) in our system.
- It cures the ailments of the lungs, headache and mental tension.
- It expels all the waste matter and poisonous elements from the body.
- It gives longevity of life and enhances the beauty of the face.
- It is required for the rectification of the different systems and their vitalization.
- It makes the sense organs more inward and brings fall to the thought currents.
- Finally, it is very helpful in the development of our vital energy and the spiritual power.
Essentials of performing Pranayama:
- Practice of Pranayama in a tranquil, open and clean environment is ideal.
- Pranayama should be performed only on empty stomach and after passing clear motion.
- Performing Pranayama in a Lotus posture is ideal. In this posture, the backbone is absolutely straight and hence there is a flow of blood in each and every vertebrae of the body. Since the ribs are upright there is full oxygen flow in the lungs. Because of this the distribution of the Prana Vayu (flow of energy) takes place in a complete and systematic way.
- During retention of breath, learn to retain the first indrawn breath with stability. If stability is lost, it is better to release the breath, rather than strain to hold it.
- Attempt Pranayama only when the yoga Asana has been mastered.
- It has to be practiced with the greatest sincerity and precision.
- Take care not to disturb or jerk the vital organs and nerves, or stress the brain cells.
According to Hindu mythology, a person has limited number of breaths in life. A person, who regularly performs Pranayam, is required to take lesser number of breaths and therefore lives longer.