Meaning of Pranayam
Pranayama forms an important component of hath yoga. All created things are made of prana or the vital force. The process by which expansion of this prana or vital force is managed is called pranayama.
Pranayama is a part of yoga. It consists of two words 'prana' meaning life or air, and 'ayama' meaning control. The science of controlling prana is pranayama. It means control of life, or control of inner force of human life. It is a special form of breathing leading to deeper relaxation and meditation, and is a scientific method of controlling breath.
There are various forms of pranayama. Though each form is done differently, most of them have the following three steps in common-
(1) Purak (Inhalation)
(2) Kumbhak (Retention)
(3) Rechak (Exhalation)
The following points and precautions need to be followed for doing pranayama:Practice pranayama in a well-ventilated (not windy), clean and pleasant environment. Do not practice pranayama in a foul smelling, smoky or dusty room.
Cover the body with a comfortable garment so that there are no external disturbances such as insects during the practice.
A patient of any particular disease is advised to practice particularpranayama only as much as is possible for him. They should seek expert advise for the type and extent of pranayama they can do.
How to do
For doing pranayama, sit down on the floor either in padmasana (lotus pose) or in sukhasana (easy pose) with the spine, neck and head absolutely erect, looking forward straight at the level of your eyes. For gyan mudra, stretch your arms and rest your wrist on the knees. Bring your thumb and index finger of each hand to meet together so that they form a circle and keep other three fingers opened straight and joined together. Breathe normally. For sadhak who wants perfect pranayama, one must also follow retention.
Pranayama increases absorption of oxygen and activates the vital organs of the system. It cleans the entire respiratory system, making respiration smooth and effortless. Pranayama makes the body light, gives a fair complexion, good appetite, happiness, strength, courage, vigour and vitality and good concentration of mind. With the practice of pranayama, the excited nerves and anxious mind is relaxed and blood circulation becomes normal.
With pranayama, on one hand the oxygen level in the blood increases, and on the other, the carbondioxide level decreases. This slows the heart, reduces its workload and thereby normalises blood pressure. The Bhakti Sagar (a holy text) says that by constant practice of pranayama, 'one can listen to different types of sounds, called 'nada', sitting in meditation.'
A normal man leading normal life can do pranayama, which helps a great deal in increasing the mental and physical powers of endurance. Hath yoga makes use of pranayama technique for many benefits. The ancient yogic belief is that death can also be delayed and conquered through practice of pranayama.
If the breath is controlled, the mind becomes steady and attains complete motionlessness.
The practice of complete breath makes a person immune to many diseases, especially cold, bronchial diseases and other general weaknesses. Deep breathing allows the lungs to remain active and helps in resisting the germs that invade the lung tissues.
In deep breathing, the stomach and other digestive organs are nourished by oxygen. In the absence of proper breathing, there is reduction in body vigour, loss of appetite and energy, and impairment of the nervous system .The nervous system can become ineffective in transmitting nerves impulses. Proper breathing therefore ensures complete nourishment of the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
Deep breathing causes the muscular diaphragm to contract and a
gentle pressure is exerted on the organs like stomach and the liver. As deep breathing continues, the diaphragm gives a gentle massage to the organs, which forms a sort of exercise, and which in turn helps in circulation of fresh blood and elimination of waste. When we inhale deeply, the diaphragm expands and helps to absorb maximum quantity of oxygen. While exhaling the diaphragm relaxes and rises forcing the lungs to expel poisonous carbon dioxide and keep the system free from toxins. Pranayam corrects diaphragmatic respiration which gives effective movement to the chest and offers natural massage to the cardiac muscles. It improves the working efficiency of liver, pancreas, spleen, kidney, stomach and intestine. It helps in digestion, circulation, respiration, secretion, excretion, reproduction and co-ordination, preventing and curing many ailments affecting these systems.