Updated: Aug 23, 2022
"Prana" stands for vital energy or life force and "yama" means control. So Pranayama is "control of the vital energy or life force". The medium of pranayama, practically, is the breath. In our daily life, we are spending our prana by following unhealthy lifestyles. So, pranayama is a practice to save the prana instead of spending it, thereby helping to center our mind and improving our body's health. This involves guiding our respiration system beyond its limit. In Pranayama, we are applying inhalation (puraka), exhalation (rechaka) and in a few technques, retention (Antara Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka). Yoga begins with Pranayama. According to Patanjali Yoga Sutras, pranayama also helps us to attain higher states of awareness - Sage Patanjali mentions the holding of breath as important practice of reaching Samadhi.
In our daily lives, most of the time, we are taking very short breaths. In yogic breathing, we are doing the opposite: Full breaths in, full breaths out - with complete awareness.
Breath and mind are related: When the mind is stressed, the breath is stressed. When the breath is stressed, the mind is stressed. If we imagine something we fear, our breath can get fast, alongside our heartrate. If we imagine something peaceful or happy, our breath gets to a normal state. Likewise, when we are not exhaling completely, we are not exhaling the remaining stress out. When we are not inhaling completely, we are not getting the proper amount of vital force inside our bodies.
By practicing yogic breathing, we need to apply abdominal, diaphragmatic, and thoracic breathing for full inhalation and exhalation. Its purpose is to control the breath and increase oxygen intake. It can be practiced in sitting postures or while lying on the back and is particularly useful in situations of high stress to calm down the mind, therefore being an easy practice to bring full pranic energy back into the body.
Have you tried yogic breathing today?
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In our Yoga Retreats, Yoga Teacher Training Courses, and classes with Madan Yoga, you will have the chance to learn and practice several kinds of Pranayama techniques, from the basic ones to advanced versions as well.