Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम), is at the core of every yoga practice.
Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite. – Paramahansa Yogananda
As most know, when translated from the original Sanskrit, Prana means “breath, energy, life force” or even “vital air”. As much as Prana is contained in air, it is not the air. Within the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath is an energy that sustains all life, we call this energy Prana.
The second portion of the word is “Ayama” which means control, expansion, length, prolongation and restraint. Prana + Ayama = Pranayama. In short, one can take more control of their Prana, using it to expand the spirit and embrace the devine. Through the practice of Pranayamas, more Prana is taken in and stored in the body bringing vitality and power to the practitioner.
Yogis believe that the human being is composed of five energetic sheaths, also known as Koshas:
- the drop of divinity at our core
- the karmic body – our karma with everyone on the planet
- the astral body where things like spirituality and creativity originate
- the mental/emotional body
- physical body
It is the Prana that ties together our separate “beings”, the astral and the physical. When doing Pranayama you are essentially uniting yourself with yourself.
During breathing for Pranayama inhalation (puraka) stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention (kumbhaka) raises the internal temperature and plays an important part in increasing the absorption of oxygen; exhalation (rechak) causes the diaphragm to return to the original position and air full of toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of inter-costal muscles. These are the main components leading to Pranayama which massage the abdominal muscles and tone up the working of various organs of the body. Due to the proper functions of these organs , vital energy flows to all the systems. The success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, exhalation and retention. -Health and Yoga