Pranayama has a special place and significance in Ashtanga Yoga. Different Yogis have defined it in different ways but the meaning is almost the same. The fourth Pada of Ashtanga Yoga is “Pranasya Ayamah Iti Pranayamah” That is, the expanse of prana (Vital Air) is Pranayam. By practicing it daily, there is a huge increase in life force.
Maharishi Patanjali has described in the 49th verse of the Sadhana Pada-
“Tasmin Satee Shwasa-prashvasyor-gatil-vichchhedah pranayamah”
Meaning: When the asana is achieved, the speed of breathlessness has divided that means which is awakened, that is the Pranayam.
Pranayama is made up of 2 words – Prana (Vital Air) + Dimension. Prana is such energy that is spread across the entire universe at some level. Prana energy is found in all the organisms in a subtle and emphatically forms. Prana energy is energy, light, fast, power and life-giving power and Ayama is Expand, Spread, regulation, and Control. Hence, Pranayam means the expansion of life force, longevity and then its control.
The subject of pranayama is vast, unlimited possibilities are hidden in it. Pranayam is a complex but meaningful art. It is not as simple as it seems. When a person tries to do Pranayam, he starts feeling that this is not a laughing game.
Today’s person has become more stressful. It has become very difficult to live a balanced and peaceful life. Some people are suffering from mental problems and some from practical reasons. To keep himself calm, he consumes all kinds of intoxicating drink, but one cannot get peace from these substances, but these things make life hell. Perhaps a person may forget his sorrows for some time from smoking and intoxicating drinks but it is not a solution to the problem. We have experimentally seen that by adopting Pranayam in our life, we can solve many problems.
Pranayam is beyond logic and debate. To learn this, glee, patience, self-surrender, guru-instructions and careful decision-making are needed and this only gives meaning to it.
Types of Prana
In Charak Samhita, Maharishi Charak split Prana into five parts. (There are 70 types of prana in Vasistha Samhita). The following five pranas are the means of delivering energy from one to the other.
1 – Prana: This is the power through which the creature pulls the breath inward and provides mobility to the thoracic region.
2 – Apana: It remains active in the lower area of the abdominal area. It controls Urine, Semen, and Stool Removal.
3 – Samana: It moves the abdominal region, Helps in digestion and Provides protection to the components of the abdomen to work properly.
4 – Udana: Udana takes up the energy from the lower part of the spinal cord and takes it to the brain. It also organizes the intake of food.
5 – Vyana: Due to being occupied throughout the body, it smooths and regulates body activities. It transfers the energy obtained from the food by the arteries, veins, and nerves to the whole body 1
Prana is also divided into subtypes.
Naga – Which reduces abdominal stress.
Kurma – Protects the eyes from external substances. The viewing process is controlled by the Kurma.
Krikala – Helps prevent external content from the nose and throat.
Devadatta – Yawning.
Dhananjay – Nourishes the body.
Just as there are different types of prana and sub-Prana, there are three types of body which keeps the soul in a systematic way.
Macro Body (Sthool Sharir) – This type of body is called the anion cell and the size is thicker.
Astral body (Sukshma Sharir) – It is produced by Manomaya, Pranayam, Vijnanamaya.
Causal body (Karan Sharir) – Through this, the seeker experiences the consciousness.
States of pranayama
Acharyas have described the state of pranayama in four phases.
Aarambh (Onset), Ghat (Decrease), Parichay (Introduction) and Nishpatti (Conclusion).
In the initial stage, the curiosity and interest of the seeker are awakened in Pranayam. The first seeker makes its practice quick and then experiences fatigue. Due to early results, his body trembles and sweats. When the seeker exercises calmly with patience, sweating and shivering stop and it reaches the second stage, which is called depletion.
The body has been compared to the clay vase, as the rotten clay vase quickly gets destroyed. Similarly, the physical body created from the Five elements also gets destroyed soon, but if it is enough to be checked in the fire of pranayama then it stabilizes and after that, he enters the introductory phase.
Purpose of Pranayama
Pranayam has many aims, one of which is providing total health while providing a long life. If you look in nature then those animals who breathe at fast speed, their age is less.
Turtle – Breathing 4-5 times in 1 minute, about 200-400 years of age.
Snake – Breathing 8-10 times in 1 minute, about 120-150 years of age.
Human – Breathing 15-16 times in 1 minute, about 100 years of age.
Horse – Breathing 24-26 times in 1 minute, about 40 years of age.
Cat – Breathing 30 times in 1 minute, about 20 years of age.
Dog – Breathing 30-35 times in 1 minute, about 14-15 years of age.
Thus it is proved that by controlling the movement of breath, we can grow our precious life.
Practice period and duration of Pranayam
It is best to practice Pranayama for 2 hours after sunrise. That is, if the sunrise is at 6 o’clock, it is best to do pranayama at 8 o’clock in the morning. It is better to do pranayama before sunrise if possible. The morning time is refreshing. Those seekers who practice meditation or mantra chanting, during morning time if they practice pranayama, they get the double benefit.
Pranayam related indication, precautions, and rules
- There should be complete arrangements to avoid mosquitoes, flies or other small creatures.
- By sitting in Padmasana or Siddhasana, Pranayam happens properly.
- The place should be clean and solitary.
- The person doing pranayama should not take intensive things, meat products, drugs etc. To get the full benefit of Pranayam, the sacrifice of these things is necessary.
- Try to fix the timing, location, and direction of pranayama.
- Pranayama should not be practiced fastly.
- Practicing pranayama after bathing gives more profit. But do not take bath immediately after pranayama, wait for about half an hour.
- Do not do Pranayam in between the loud sound and panic condition.
- Some pranayama increase heat and some increase cold, so practice as per the situation.
Benefits of Pranayama
- It destroys Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
- Pranayam is the communication of power throughout the body.
- Pranayam keeps old age away.
- By purifying contaminated nerves, it makes the body nimble.
- Pranayam does not only increase physical and mental strength but it also raises the soul.
- Pranayam leads to the development of disease resistant power.
- By doing Pranayama, we become partners in giving health to this world in a way.
- Because of pranayama, the digestive system, lungs, and heart work smoothly. So the body gets plenty of oxygen and increases the purity of blood.
- Doing pranayama does not cause wrinkles in the face.
- This removes all the diseases of the abdominal region.