Pranayama is a Sanskrit word, combining two words, Prana + Ayama. Prana means “the vital energy force and Ayama means “expansion”. The simple meaning is “Expansion of your vital life force through controlled and prolonged breathing”. Before going deep into the details, let us compare it with breathing.
Pranayama and Breathing
Breathing is more an unconscious process while the Pranayama is a conscious breathing. Furthermore, it is a regulated breathing, which comprises of four aspects namely, Pooraka (prolonged inhalation), Rechaka (prolonged exhalation), Antar Kumbhaka (internal retention of breath) and Bahir Kumbhaka (external retention of breath). Breathing provides physical benefits while pranayama influences the flow, purification prana, the vital energy, regulation and activation of the vital energy to induce physical and mental stability.
Importance of Pranayama
Cleansing Your Energy Flow channels:
Prana refers to that limb of the yoga, which nourishes a living being, and an action that sustains you. It means ‘expansion or extension of the breath’ where Prana is a universal term which denotes the manifestation of all creative life forces flowing through the subtle channels of the body called as ‘Nadis’ and ‘Ayama’ means ‘expansion’ or ‘extension’.
Controlled/ Prolonged breathing Increases Life-Span
The ancient yogis observed that animals with slow breaths like elephants, tortoise, pythons lived long, while those with fast breathing rates like birds, rabbits and dogs had a short lifespan. Through this, they realised the importance of slow breathing in increasing the lifespan of a human being.
People these days adopt a poor posture due to which they breathe incorrectly. Only a small part of the lung is used for breathing due to stooping. It deprives an individual of getting sufficient oxygen and prana which is essential to maintain good health.
Decreases Stress Dramatically
Stress is another cause of irregular breathing which disrupts the rhythm of the brain leading to physical, mental and emotional blocks resulting in disease, conflicts and unbalanced personality respectively. Pranayama regularises the breathing pattern which helps to re-establish the natural, relaxed rhythm of the body, mind and emotions.
Conclusion: Breathing is an unconscious process which can be controlled consciously through Pranayama. Hence, Pranayama is considered to be a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind. Overall, Pranayama is a Yogic science which aims at controlling one’s mind and body by regulating and prolonging the breath.