Yoga and Pranayama

What is pranayama (yogic breathing)?

‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. Pranayama is the control of prana through the breath. These techniques rely on breathing through the nostrils.

Understanding prana

Prana flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras’. The quantity and quality of prana and the way it flows through the nadis and chakras determines one’s state of mind. If the prana level is high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, the mind remains calm, positive and enthusiastic. However, due to lack of knowledge and attention to one’s breath, the nadis and chakras in the average person may be partially or fully blocked leading to jerky and broken flow. As a result one experiences increased worries, fear, uncertainty, tensions, conflict and other negative qualities.

Benefits of regular practice of pranayama:

  • Increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana
  • Clears blocked nadis and chakras
  • Makes one energetic, enthusiastic and positive
  • Brings harmony between the body, mind and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong

How to practice pranayama:

The ancient sages of India realized some breathing techniques which are simple and relaxing. Some popular breathing techniques you may like to try:

You can practice these breathing techniques at any time of the day whenever your stomach is empty.

  • Is your mind buzzing with activity? Can't stop thinking about what someone said about you? Find a quiet corner and try the Bee breath (Bhramari pranayama) to apply brakes in the buzzing mind. This breathing technique is a boon for those with hypertension.
  • Among the breathing techniques, Kapal Bhati (Skull Shining breath) is considered the most important and effective for detoxifying the body and clearing the energy channels.
  • Low energy levels? Three rounds of Bhastrika pranayama (Bellow breath) will get your energy levels soaring!
  • Can't concentrate on the task at hand? Try nine rounds of Nadi Shodhan pranayama followed by a short 10-minute meditation. Nadi Shodhan pranayama calms and centers the mind by bringing into harmony the left and right hemispheres of the brain which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.

 

Please note: Since the Pranayamas deal with the subtle force, it is important to practice them as taught in yoga classes. Do not experiment with them.

Yoga practice helps develop the body and mind bringing a lot of health benefits yet is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a trained Art of Living Yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor and an Art of Living Yoga teacher. Find an Art of Living Yoga course at an Art of Living Center near you. Do you need information on courses or share feedback? Write to us at info@artoflivingyoga.org

 

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