Some scriptures say that life is not measured by the years that we live, but by the breaths we take, it signiﬁes the importance of this vital function that one usually takes for granted. When we come into this world, the body takes its ﬁrst breath and when we depart we exhale our last.
Pranayama is an ancient science, which deals with the most subtle energy of the human body. Prana is the ʻvital energyʼ that keeps the body functions operating. It can be described as the electricity in any electrical device. Though it is a subtle energy, we recharge ourselves with prana, through the air we breath, food we eat and the water we drink.
Beside the basic human need to eat, drink and sleep, the necessity to breath is even greater. One can stay for many days without eating, few days without having water, however, one cannot survive for more than a couple of minutes without breathing. Though breathing come’s naturally, one is not trained on how to use the respiratory system to its full capacity and receive maximum beneﬁts.
The science of Pranayama teaches one to increase the vital energy, through practice of different ancient techniques. Regulating the ﬂow of energy can be achieved through controlling the inhalation, exhalation and retention. Prana is also related to the way the mind and emotions function. One can verify this very simply. When in an altered or irrational state of mind, for e.g. angry, the breath can become excessively short and rapid, using mostly the upper part of the lungs. When one is relaxed, the breath becomes long and soft through the movement of the diaphragm.
Due to bad breathing habits, many functions of the body, specially those connected to the brain are unable to function properly as they do not receive appropriate amounts of oxygen. Outer signs could be fatigue, lack of concentration or clarity of mind, laziness and other manifesting behaviors.
With simple techniques such as deep breathing, Kabalabathi (shinning skull) or Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing), one can begin the practice of cleansing the respiratory system through pumping the air out, thus increasing the exchange of gases in the lungs. The alternate nostril breathing harmonizes the different polarities of energy in the body (male and female/right and left) thus, acting upon the two hemispheres of the brain. These are related to different aspects of our being, rational, emotional and creative amongst others.
The practice of pranayama is an important aspect of Yoga. It is a powerful tool that enables practitioners to enhance their health, strength, clarity of mind and most of all, concentration. By regulating the breath, the mind becomes peaceful and calm, leading the practitioner to deeper states of well being and contentment.
Apart from the more simple techniques, the science of Pranayama extends to advanced ones. This demands a much stronger commitment from the aspirant to the practices and a life style that is aligned to these practices. They will have the beneﬁts as explained above, plus generating tremendous amount of energy, dispassion and clarity of mind, hence leading deeper inside oneʼs Self.
For more information on Practice and Theory of Pranayama weekend April 5th-7th click here.