Pranayama, a very integral part of yoga, is a true gift to mankind. It is the fourth limb of yoga and has a tremendous impact on our overall well-being. It has a special place and importance in Ashtanga Yoga. Even in the Chaturpada of Ashtangayoga of Maharishi Patanjali, it states, “Pranasya Ayamah Iti Pranayama,’ which means that Pranayama, is an expansion of life.
What exactly is Pranayama?
Pranayama is related to the art and activities of breathing right. The word Pranayama is made up of two words of Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ and ‘Ayam.’ In a gross form, it is related to the Prana, which is the life force that keeps our body alive, and through which our body gets energy. It can also be described as breath, life, energy, or power. Whereas ‘Ayama’ translates into expansion, regulation, direction, or change. Thus, when put together, ‘pranayama’ means prolonging the breath and then controlling it.
When we practice Pranayama, the air going inside the body expands into five parts or we can say that it gets stored in five places inside the body. These five places, also called Panchakas are, Vyana, Samana, Apana, Udana, and Prana.
What are the three steps of Pranayama?
While practicing Pranayama, we perform three actions – Puraka, Kumbhaka, and Rechak. In Hatha Yoga, it is commonly referred to as Abhyantar Vritti, Stambh Vritti, and Bahaya Vritti. In simple terms, this act is to inhale, hold and release the breath in a controlled and rhythmic way.
- Puraka – when the breath is taken inwards through the nostrils.
- Kumbhaka – when the breath has to be held inside.
- Rechak – when the breath is exhaled outwards through the nostrils.
What are the advantages?
Pranayama is beneficial for a person’s mind, brain, as well as physical health. By practicing Pranayama, our running thoughts are put to rest, and the body can unload its tension. It helps in stabilising the mind by reducing its restlessness. It also helps with anxiety and stress. It is believed that those who practice Pranayama live a longer life. It is also usually practiced along with other Yoga asanas, as it allows the body to cool down after an intense workout session.
What is the purpose of Pranayama?
Its primary purpose is to bring energy to the body, strengthening the connection between the body and mind and providing a healthy and long life.
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