Prana, breath of life, energy;
It is considered as one of the most important elements in yoga practice, followed by breath control.
What is Prana?
Prana means energy, life force, surrounding each of us. As an essential bodily function, breathing is an involuntary act. Although we cannot control whether or not we breathe, we can, to some extent, control the way that we breathe. Exercises in breath control, such as breath retention and deliberate methods inhalation and exhalation for specific mental and physical benefits are at the core of pranayama practice.
Breathing is a part of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate , urination ,and sexual arousal. This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.
I agree that everyone knows how to breathe, even a newborn child who doesn’t even know what it is; but through life we learn about conscious breath and unconscious breath. As I mentioned before in one of my other blogs, deep breathing, not only in yoga practice but in everyday life is crucial for our nervous system, our organs and most of all our state of mind.
Difference between Prana and breath
Pranayama is practiced in a specific posture, especially sitting in Padmasana or Ardhpadmasana and should be performed early morning on empty stomach at a well ventilated quite place. Breathing should be slow and rhythmic, eyes should be close to control the mind and body. It has three aspects (1) Poorka (Inhalation) (2) Kumbhaka (Retention) (3) Rechaka (Exhalation).
Types of Pranayama:
- Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious breath)
• Anulom Vilom (alternate breathing)
• Brahamari Pranayama (humming bee breath)
• Bhastrika Pranayama (air is forcibly in and out)
• Shitali Pranayama (Cooling breath)
• Bahya Pranayama (forcibly breath in, breath out and then hold the breath)
• Kapalabhati Pranayama (exhales air from lungs is forcibly but inhalate involuntary)
By doing pranamaya breathing and exercises daily, you increase your state of mind, consciousness, focus,and balance between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. Here’s a beginner’s example of a pranayama exercise that can be done at home or anywhere silent and comfortable:
Ujjayi breath – victorious breath
To practice ujjayi breath, sit in a comfortable posture with a neutral spine. Gently constrict the aperture of the throat to create a subtle hissing sound; this action is similar to saying “aah” without vocalizing and then closing your mouth. Keep the throat constricted on both the inhalation and the exhalation and draw the breath in and out from the diaphragm, not from the chest. Make both parts of the breath equally long and smooth, and make sure there’s no pause in between.\