Pranayama, the fourth limb of the Ashtanga Yoga, is the technique of Prana Management.
Pranayama is not Breath Control
‘Pranayama’ or ‘Yogic breathing’ is now popularly accepted as a method to elevate one’s health through proper breathing techniques. The Sanskrit word ‘Pranayama’ is derived from the root words, ‘Prana’ meaning ‘life force’ and ‘Ayama’ meaning ‘to extend’. So ‘Pranayama’ is the breathing technique to extend life energy.
But what is Prana?
Whatever moves or work or has a life, is the manifestation of Prana. Pranic energy can be defined as the finest vital force in everything that is visible on the physical plane as motion & action and as thoughts on the mental plane.
Pranayama is what happens at a Hydro power plant when water (breath) moves the turbines (organs and glands) and generates electricity. This electricity is Prana.
Management of Prana is Meditation
Yogis of lore gave more importance to Prana than the mind. According to them, Prana is present even when the mind is absent; therefore prana plays a more significant part in life management.
On a day-to-day level, Pranayama is taken as the science of correct breathing, leading to mind management. Mind remains unsteady if the breath wanders, it becomes still only if the breath is steady. Pranayama is a way of disciplining oneself by managing one’s breath thereby mastering one’s thoughts.
Pranayama, on a physical plane, is a technique to calm the mind and lengthen life by slowing down the breath. Conscious guidance of prana in the body increases vitality, helps detoxifying and enhances immunity.
How Pranayama ‘Breathing’ should happen
The diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle. It is a thin wide sheet of muscle that is located between the rib cage and the abdomen.
When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves down into the abdominal cavity, thereby pushing the belly out. It increases the capacity of the lungs while lowering the air pressure and, thus, draws in oxygen into the body.
When we exhale, the diaphragm and rib muscles relax, pushing the air out of your lungs. That’s why good breathing is called belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.
The most crucial aspect to healthy breathing is to breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing has a number of physiological advantages:
1. The nose moistens and warms the air before it hits your lung.
2. The nasal hairs filter out dust and other foreign particles from the air.
3. Nerves in your nasal passages that connect to the brain sense everything about your breathing and use that information to regulate it.
When you bypass the nose and breathe through your mouth, the germ and dust particles enter your lungs directly increasing the risk of infection and slowing down the intake of oxygen. That’s why the first step to attain optimal breathing is to breathe through your nose.
Learn the pranayama techniques from an expert
Learning the technique for proper breathing is important. But what’s far more significant is to practise that technique every day. Trapped in our busy lives, we forget to breathe properly and resort to chest breathing. That’s why nasal breathing is considered as a learned skill and incorporating it in our daily routine becomes all the more essential for a healthier life.