What is pranayama (yogic breathing)?
Your body is like the wick of a candle and the mind is like the glow all around it. ‘Prana’ is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is the prana or life force in us that nourishes the mind and keeps the body alive. ‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘Ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Pranayama means working in the dimension of prana.
The prana creates an aura around the body. It flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras’. The quantity and quality of prana and the way it flows through the nadis and chakras determines one’s state of mind. If the prana level is high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, the mind remains calm, positive and enthusiastic. However, due to lack of knowledge and attention to one’s breath, the nadis and chakras in the average person may be partially or fully blocked leading to jerky and broken flow. As a result, one experiences increased worries, fear, uncertainty, tensions, conflict and other negative qualities. Every problem first generates in the subtle and then surfaces on the physical level. Sickness shows up in your prana (Pranic Body) much before you get sick physically.
Benefits of regular practice of pranayama
- Increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana
- Clears blocked nadis and chakras.Clears the whole energy around you, expands your aura and heightens the spirit
- Makes one energetic, enthusiastic and positive
- Brings harmony between the body, mind, and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong. It brings clarity to the mind and good health to the body
4 Types of pranayama and their application
The ancient sages of India realized some breathing techniques which are simple to practice and brought great relaxation to the body and mind. These breathing techniques can be practiced with ease and at any time of the day on an empty stomach:
- Is your mind buzzing with activity? Can’t stop thinking about what someone said about you? Find a quiet corner and try the Bhramari pranayama (Bee breath) to apply brakes in the buzzing mind. This breathing technique is a boon for those with hypertension.
- Among the breathing techniques, Kapal Bhati pranayama (Skull Shining breathing technique) is considered the most important and effective for detoxifying the body and clearing the energy channels.
- Low energy levels? Three rounds of Bhastrika pranayama (Bellow breath) will get your energy levels soaring!
- Can’t concentrate on the task at hand? Try nine rounds of Nadi Shodhan pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing technique) followed by a short 10-minute meditation. Nadi Shodhan pranayama calms and centers the mind by bringing into harmony the left and right hemispheres of the brain which correlates to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
Note: Since the pranayamas deal with the subtle life force, it is important to practice them as taught in your yoga classes. Experimenting with these techniques is not advisable.