Pranayama is the 4th limb in ashtanga yoga defined by sage Patanjali. The word pranayama literally means the ability to expand or stretch our life force (prana) by controlling our breath. Breath is a gross manifestation of prana or prana is a subtle form of breath visa verse.

Pranayama is divided into the words ‘prana’ + ‘ayama’. The word ‘Prana’ means a universal life force that is responsible for keeping us alive. When prana leaves a person’s body, the person is dead; but as long as prana is inside a person’s body, we consider the person alive. The word ‘ayama’ means expansion /stretch/ elongate. The word pranayama means expansion of life force(prana) or to stretch life force by controlling the breath.

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Pranayama: Art of Breathing

Art of Breathing
Art of Breathing

We say that breathing is a physical part of thinking and thinking is a psychological part of breathing which means that it is a vital bridge between body and mind. By controlling the breath one can control the mind as well. When a person is angry or agitated his/her breath is fast, shallow, unsteady, or disturbed; but when a person is calm and relaxed, his/her breath gets slow, deep, and rhythmic. Whenever we are upset over something we often say:

“ take a deep breath”, because it’s our body’s natural need to maintain balance by taking deep breaths in those moments.

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What yoga and pranayama teach us is that not only our emotions control the quality of our breath but we can control the mind and our emotions by controlling our breath as well. So mastering the art of breathing is important for self-healing and survival.

Definition of pranayama:

The expansion of individual energy into cosmic energy is known as pranayama. Prana  (energy) + ayama (expansion)

Types of pranayama:

  • Kapalabhati
  • Bhastrika
  • Nadi shodhana
  • Bhramari
  • Sheetali
  • Sheetkari
  • Suryabhedi
  • Chandrabhedi
  • Ujjayi

Benefits of pranayama:

  • It helps you to deal with stress, anxiety, and hypertension.
  • Improves the functioning of the lungs.
  • Purifies the Nadis( the subtle energy channels).
  • It helps to achieve a state of ‘pratyahara’ (sense withdrawal), which prepares you for ‘Dharana (concentration) and ‘dhyana’ (meditation).
  • Improves the circulation of body fluids and energy within the organs, like the stomach, liver, intestine, etc.
  • Certain pranayama rewire your brain’s neural network to function better as a whole being.
  • Regular practice of pranayama can extend your life and improve the autonomic function of the human body.

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