The word pranayama has two Sanskrit words in it. ‘Prana’ means life force (impulse), and Ayama means control. It is the conscious awareness of the breath entering and leaving the body. It energizes and relaxes the mind and soul. Pranayama is the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga as defined by sage Patanjali. It provides a vital bridge between mind and body. If someone feels angry or agitated, his breath is fast and shallow. If someone feels calm, his breathing is long and deep. According to sage Patanjali, there are eight steps towards enlightenment.
- Yama (ethical living)
- Niyama (disciplined life)
- Asana (meditative sitting posture)
- Pranayama (control of prana)
- Pratyahara (withdrawing of mind from senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyaan (deep meditation)
- Samadhi (enlightenment)
Breath alone has a very little to do with it, though the art of breathing is one of the means of bringing the prana under control, i.e., energy or nerve impulse. It can be very well called the power of nerve impulses, as the real object of pranayama is to control the nerve impulses and nerve center.
Prana is an impulse. Vayu is the current of impulse. It presents received within the body as well as outside the body. Either coming from the human being or arising from the cosmic sources that are:
- Food and drink
- Sound, touch, sight, smell senses.
Therefore, all these are converted into an incoming coded impulse or outgoing decoded thoughts.
Pranayama: Process Of Breathing
Before moving forward, first, we need to understand the process of breathing. It involves two activities that are inhaling as well as exhaling. The first one is called “Puraka,” and the Later is called “Rechaka” in Yog Shastra. The stage where the breath comes to a halt is called “Kumbhak” in yoga. It comprises of forms of breathing that are:
- Quiet breathing – the natural breathing without any efforts and needs no control over it.
- Deep breathing – a stage in respiration caused by deliberately slowing down of breathing. In a deep breath, the time given to inhaling and exhaling should be the same.
- Fast breathing – it is a quick breathing process which is caused by an increase in the speed of breath.
Types Of Pranayama:
- Ujjayi pranayama – In ujjayi pranayama, you take in breath from the nostrils while throat makes the sound. It is very helpful in thyroid-related problems.
- Bhramri pranayama – In this stage, the thumbs are placed on the ears and the fingers on the eyes. After that, a deep breath is taken and exhaled with chanting of OM mantra. It helps in increasing concentration.
- Suryabhedi pranayama – In this process, breath is inhaled from the right nostril, holds for a while, and then exhaled through the left nostril. It is done on a time ratio starting from 1:2:2, which can be further, increased with practice. It helps in maintaining body heat and is beneficial in winters.
- Bhastrika pranayama – In this round breath is taken in and out at speed rate for few times, then it has to behold for some time in the end.
- Sheetli pranayama – This stage of breathing needs the tongue to be rolled, and then one has to breathe through the mouth. After holding the breath for some time, exhale it through nostrils.
- Sheetkari pranayama – In this, a sound called “Sheetkar” is produced keeping your tongue at the back of your teeth and then breathe. Practice Jalandhar bandh and then exhale from nostrils.
- Moorcha pranayama – This process involves continuous exhaling of breath without inhaling once. It leads to increased concentration in carbon dioxide resulting in a short period of unconsciousness, which is regained by automatic inhaling while asleep.
- Palawani pranayama – In this stage, one has to take good care of breath as it keeps the body floating in the water surface. Only trained yogis should do the Moorcha and Palawani pranayama, as it needs a lot of practice.
In conclusion, Pranayam is a healing process of mind, body, and soul. It brings control over the autonomic nervous system over which we don’t have any power. Therefore, It is the art or technique of control of impulses.