Prana is the life-force which permeates both the individual as well as the universe at all levels. It is at once physical, sexual, mental, intellectual and cosmic. Prana, the breath, and the mind are inextricably linked to each other.

Pranayama is a sanskrit word which is translated as “extension of the prana” (prana means breath,life force or breath control ). The word is made up of  two sanskrit words : prana meaning life force (breath) and either ayama  (to restrain or control the prana, implying a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered in order to produce specific results) or the negative form ayama , meaning to extend or draw out (as in extension of the life force). Pranayama is an yogic discipline and is an integral part of yoga with origins in India.

It is a practice that unites breath with the mind, prana is energy and ayama is the distribution of that energy. Ayama has three movements or aspects:horizontal extension,vertical extension and cyclical extension. Pranayama helps us to move energy vertically,horizontally and cyclically into the body.

Role of Breath in Pranayama

Pranayama should not be confused with deep breathing as deep breathing tenses the facial muscles, makes the skull and scalp rigid and tightens the chest. It also applies an external force to release or intake of breath. This creates hardness in the lungs and chest which prevents breath from travelling throughout the body. But in pranayama,

The brain cells and facial muscles remains soft. The breath is taken and released gently. During the inhalation process the mind of  a person can feel each molecule, fibre and cell of the body and absorbs the prana. The person can feel the breath inside every part of the lungs.

During the exhalation process, the breath is released gradually which gives sufficient time to air-cells to reabsorb the residual prana as much as possible.  It helps in calming the mind and in building up emotional stability by utilizing the energy fully.

Regular practice of asanas helps in creating a clear path for prana to flow. During the process of pranayam one should not disturb or jerk the vital organs, nerves and brain cells. A person should check the interruptions during exhalation and inhalation, it will help in making things smooth. Retention of breath should be stable and if you can’t get stability it’s better to release the breath. It should be ensured that the abdomen doesn’t swell during the inhalation and exhalation.

Goal of Pranayama

Pranayama should be attempted only after mastering the asanas, Patanjali said that inhalation, exhalation and retention should be precise and one must have control over all three aspects of pranayama.

Inhalation activates the central nervous system into stimulating the peripheral nerves and each exhalation process does the reverse process. And during the retention process, both of these processes take place.

Pranayama helps the nervous system to work more efficiently. Inhalation is the art of acquiring energy and  bringing spiritual cosmic breath into the contact of individual breath whereas exhalation is the removal of toxins from the body.

Role of Pranayama in the Material and Spiritual World

Pranayama is the link between physiological and spiritual aspects of a human being. Pranayama can be done effortlessly once it’s been mastered otherwise it can be very difficult in the beginning. Once the external movements of the body are controlled there comes the internal silence with no thoughts. The mind gets dissolved in the self and removes all the external thoughts.

Mastering the art of pranayama can be very difficult as it requires so much time and energy to put in. You can fail several times while understanding the aspects of pranayama, but one should not get discouraged by the failure and should try to learn from them. Gradually you will be successful in your attempts and will master the art of pranayama.

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