Pranayama is the technique of dealing with prana – the breath. Before moving to any of the pranayama techniques, let us first understand what prana is.
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What is Pranayama
Prana is the total energy present in the universe. It is this prana that we and everything in the universe is composed of. It is the primary force and energy. which is responsible for keeping us alive. It is this prana by which we breathe and by which the circulation of blood goes on. it is the energy in the nerves and in the muscles; and the thought in the brain.
Our mind is like the ocean in which a wave rises, but even though the man notices the wave, he does not know how this wave came there. In a similar manner, in our human body, the actions of our hands, eyes, legs, can be easily perceived. The cause of these movements are the movements of the fine nerves which we cannot touch or see. These nerves movement, again, is a cause of still finer movements- our thoughts. And these thoughts are connected with breathing, as if we can get hold of this breathing and manipulate and control it, we will slowly get to know the finest movements into the realms of our mind.
Pranayama is the path which leads us towards these finest movements and thus help us control our mind. The thought, much before rising, can be traced and controlled by us through pranayama; thus connecting us to our true inner selves.
Meaning of Pranayama
The word pranayama means the ability to expand our life force by controlling the breath. There are various ways and positions to practice pranayama. All these ways include different types of breathing techniques. Pranayama, when practiced along with meditation can cure almost all ailments. This combination of pranayama and meditation can heal some of the treatment of the very serious problems of which is nowhere. This beautiful combination has proven to be very successful in curing eye problems, serious skin diseases, circulation issues, stress, anxiety, snoring and even diabetes.
Many of the times we get confused that breathing is something that we do daily, that too on a regular basis. Then why pranayama???? At this point, I would say that pranayama is slow, deep breathing, in a rhythm. The breathing that we do normally is not in rhythm and is non-harmonic. It is in pranayama that it gets a harmonic and it is then, we get connected to our inner selves.
How to do Breathing Exercise
In order to practice pranayama, sit down in padmasana, or if new to this practice, Ardha padmasana. Close your eyes. Place your hands on your knees or at your naval, whichever is comfortable for you. Take a deep breath in; hold it for some seconds till you are comfortable. Then release it slowly; and as you practice, feel the breath as it moves into and out of your body. With practice, try to hold the breath for as long as you can, comfortably. To practice Bhastrika, take the same position. The only variation is that the breath that you inhale and exhale, is of equal duration.
Benefits of Pranayama
As best said, “Face is the index of mind and eyes are the windows of the soul”. With pranayama, eyesight is improved dramatically as it induces relaxation in the brain. Pranayama, when combined with a few eye exercises, does wonders to the eyes. Cataract and glaucoma and even color blindness can be treated with pranayama. Pranayama with kapalbhati and meditation helps reduce stress in the eyes, thus curing dark circles around the eyes.
One of the major issues faced by people these days is the circulation problem. You will be glad to know that varying blood pressures, the root cause of all heart-related problems, has its cure in Yoga. The anulom-vilom pranayama cures it within a maximum period of 3-4 months. To practice anulom-vilom pranayama, sit in padmasana and rest your hands on your knees. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostrils to fill your lungs. Then holding your breath, close your left nostril with your middle and index fingers of the same hand. Exhale through the right nostril slowly, emptying the lungs completely. Repeat this pranayama to as many times as you can do comfortably. Practicing this pranayama daily gives significant results in a period of 3-4 months only. All you need is to be patient and consistent. As that is the key.
Science Behind Pranayama
While breathing in pranayama, instead of keeping a count, you can chant ‘Om’. The vibrations produced in the pronunciation of Om calms and relaxes the mind. Om is considered as the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we acknowledge our connection to every living thing in the universe. The meaning of Omis characterized by creation, preservation and liberation. It has been shown in a study by Dr. Alan Watkins (senior lecturer in Neuroscience at Imperial College London), that even listening to chants normalizes adrenalin levels, brain wave patterns and lower cholesterol levels. Using chants in your daily Yogaroutines can also help lose weight significantly.