Pranayama is an essential part of yogic practice. Pranayama literally means the controlling and channeling of the Prana or vital energy in our body. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word where “Prana” means the vital energy or life force and “Ayama” means channeling or regulating. So the practice of Pranayama in yogic practice is to regulate the vital life force into our body so that it works properly and we live a healthy life.
We all breathe and without breath life is impossible. So what is breath? Why do we need to breathe? What does it do to our body? The answer looks very simple. Breathing is the natural process in our body where we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and it helps us to be alive. But the answer to this question in deeper level of yogic aspect is quite fascinating. When our lungs pump in the oxygen from the air, it enters our body; mixes with blood stream and helps convert nutrients and minerals into energy for body cells. So you might ask another question that is if the respiration is doing its work naturally into our body, why do we need to practice Pranayama? It seems logical on the surface level but what pranayama does is quite different than what respiration does. Although both look similar, they are quite different from each other.
Yoga science has imagined different energy channels and energy centers called nadis and chakras in our body. And the vital life force has to enter all those nadis and chakras for the proper functioning and good health condition. In normal human body, most of the chakras and nadis are closed and the vital energy or Prana cannot enter them in normal situation. The proper and regular practice of pranayama helps to open all those chakras and nadis in our body and prana is channeled into those parts. When pranayama opens and activates the chakras and nadis in our body, we feel lighter and more comfortable in our overall health condition. This is because each and every body cell is being recharged with the vital energy, the prana.
There are different types of pranayama practices where we control our breathing pattern concentrating basically on the part that gets maximum effect. Pranayama like Nadi Sodhana, Ujjayi, Kapalbhati, Kumbhaka, Bhramari, Anulomvilom etc. regulate the prana through the energy channels and effect of which is clearly felt on our physical level after a proper and regular practice.
It is important that when you practice pranayama exercises, you must learn it correctly from a yoga teacher and practice it several times in his/her presence before you go on independent practice. You must learn proper posture for the practice of pranayama and it is done empty stomach. And there are certain repetitions of each type of pranayama exercises and exceeding the limit might get you into problem. While pranayama exercises are very important for a healthy mind, body and soul, we have to take some precautions at the same time. We will talk in details about the process of practicing each type of pranayama in our next post.
Until then Happy Breathing!