Pranayama: the Miracle of Breathing
Pranayama is a rhythmic breathing exercise. Pranayama consists of two related words; Prana and Ayama. Prana means Life force or cosmic energy and Ayama means regulate or control. There is a cosmic energy within us and it is used for all our regular activities. Through pranayama, we can regulate or control this cosmic energy for the better use. Prana consists of five vital energies – they are Prana, Vyana, Apana, Udana and Samana. Prana is used for breathing and functioning of heart and lungs. Vyana is when it is used for circulation of blood and other fluids in the body. Apana is when it is used for eating, drinking etc. Udana means talking and other similar activities. Samana is for digesting of food. Among all these activities, breathing is the most important activity.
Motion of the lungs creates breath. Pranayama means controlling of this motion of the lungs. So this Prana energy is very essential for the motion of the lungs. The pumping action of lungs draws the air in and out. So Pranayama is essentially controlling of the vital life energy which helps in the movement of lungs.
According to sage Patanjali, Pranayama is the fourth stage among eight disciplines of Yoga till Samadhi. The first 3 stages are: Yama (restraining harmful thoughts), Niyama (cultivating good habits), Asana (suitable sitting postures).
How to perform the Pranayama?
The basic form of Pranayama consists of three basic steps. They are – Puraka. Kumbhaka and Rechaka. Puraka means inhaling of the breath; Kumbhaka means holding the breath and Rechaka is exhaling. The whole exercise consists of, first inhale slowly through left nostril for 5-6 seconds; hold the breath for 15 seconds and finally exhale slowly through right nostril. The next time the process has to be reversed. First inhale through right nostril; hold it for some time and exhale through left nostril. This has to be repeated several times. It is advisable to slowly increase the repetitions through practice. This whole process is called Pranayama.
Other types of Pranayama
Some of the important forms of Pranayama are:
Requirements for doing Pranayama
First of all we should have calm mind. When mind is agitated, it will be difficult to regulate the flow of energy. Have a smile on the face. Next, sitting posture is very important. Sit comfortably with backbone erect. The chest, neck and the head should be held vertically in a straight line. you can sit as cross legged or on a arm chair. It is advisable to use Yoga postures such as Padmasana, Vajrasana, Gomukhaasana, Siddhasana etc. But back bone should be in a straight line.
Benefits of Pranayama
Several researches have been done on Pranayama by sages and rishis and also from modern scientists. It is proved that regular practice of Pranayama will help in many ways.
It increases longevity: Through Pranayama, the breathing rate decreases. The breathing rate has a direct correlation to the life span. The lower breathing rate likely to increase the lifespan of the person.
Regular practice of Pranayama reduces mental tensions, worry, anger, depression etc. It can control the agitated mind and experience the bliss. it will increase the willpower of the person.
Pranayama improves the blood circulation. Through the rhythmic breathing,the lungs and heart perform better. Because of this, the prana or energy flows to all parts of the body. When oxygen flows properly, the mind and body performs well.
It will reduce blood pressure and also relieve from asthma.
It is advisable to practice the Pranayama through the guidance of competent teacher. If it is not done properly, it can be dangerous also. Do the process slowly and do not be in a hurry. No need of doing just for the sake of doing. If you have enough time, then only do it. Pregnant women should avoid doing Pranayama. If one has chronic disorders, it is better to consult a guide.