Pranayama – Breath exercise is a very significant part of Yoga. It is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of “Ashtanga Yoga.” Pranayama is more than breathing. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word composed of two words “prana” and “ayama.” “Prana” means the life force energy and “ayama” means control, extend, restrain, etc. The whole word
“Pranayama” means Controling/Extending/Restraining the prana. Breath is the carrier of prana and thus by the mindful use of breath, prana can be controlled/extended/restrained and different results are manifested. The manifestation of these results begins from the subtle level and reaches the physical level.
There are 5 main pranas and 5 sub pranas. Prana, Apana, Udana, Vyana and Samana are the main 5 pranas or panchaprana. Naga, Kurma, Devadatta, Krikara and Dhananjaya are the sub pranas or upaprana.
PRANA – supplies the body with oxygen, which is essential for all functions of body.
APANA – connected with the lower part of body from the navel to soles of feet. It regulates the elimination process.
UDANA – upward moving breath which directs the pranic flow from lower to the higher planes of consciousness. It is connected with the functions of waking up from sleep, deep sleep, deep meditation etc.
VYANA – prana which flows through nerve channels (nadis) and is important in the healthy function of whole body.
SAMANA – distributes the energy from food throughout the body. It is connected with digestion and immunity of the body.
NAGA – Belching, hiccups, vomiting, prevents gas formation.
KURMA – Blinking of eyelids, protects eyes.
DEVADATTA – Yawning, expulsion of gas.
KRIKARA – Hunger, thirst, sneezing.
DHANANJAYA – Opening and closing of heart valves, decomposition of body after death.
Several researches are being conducted about the benefits of Pranayama and reported Pranayama can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, respiratory disorders like asthma, headaches, etc. and improves the lung capacity, internal calmness, controls emotions, anti-ageing effect, improvement in overall vitality etc.
It is always advisable to learn Pranayama from a competent yoga instructor in a one-to-one session than to practice by own. The important points to be checked before starting the Pranayama practice are clean body, empty stomach, pure air devoid of any dust or other pollutants (practicing in open space is the best), sitting in comfortable
posture with spine held straight, a mat or sheet to sit on, and a comfortable place to practice which is devoid of any noise or other disturbances.
Anuloma-viloma, Nadishodan, Kapalbhathi, Bhastrika, Sheethali, Sheethkari, Ujjayi,
etc. are some of the important Pranayamas.