The Power of Breathing
The lungs are to the body what the bellows are to the fires of the forge. The more regularly and vigorously that the air is forced through the bellows and through the lungs, the livelier burns the flame in the furnace and the fire of life in the body.
Surprising as it is, almost none of us use the full capacity of our respiratory organs. This is aggravated by our sedentary lifestyles and leads to several complications popularly called lifestyle disorders.
Your natural breathing process can be altered by training our body to breathe in a particular fashion, thereby reprogramming our involuntary system to adopt this new way of breathing.
Pranayama – What it is ?
Pranayama is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – Prana (life force) and Ayama (control). Therefore, in its broadest description, Prananyama would mean the control of the flow of life force. Pranayama is a vital scientific and therapeutic aspect of yoga.
One of the initiation techniques into Prananyama is through the practice of Yogic Breathing or Yoga Breathing. Yogic Breathing helps us break down and understand our breathing better as being composed of diaphragmatic and thoracic breathing. Although this breathing technique forms a basis to advanced Pranayama techniques, it leads to important benefits of its own and provides us a glimpse of what we are capable of reaching through Pranayama.
During Pranayama inhalation (puraka) stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention (kumbhaka) raises the internal temperature and plays an important part in increasing the absorption of oxygen; exhalation (rechak) causes the diaphragm to return to the original position and air full of toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of inter-costal muscles. These are the main components of Pranayama which massage the abdominal muscles and tone up the working of various organs of the body. Due to the proper functions of these organs , vital energy flows to all the systems.
Benefits of Pranayama
With the ever-increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases like cardio-vascular and nervous system disorders, the time has come for us to address this ourselves, fair and square WITHOUT external dependence.
Reprogramming your natural breathing technique not only helps in preventing these problems but may also help in the “reversal” of several such harmful conditions. In fact leading cardiac experts are advocating the benefits of “correct” breathing to their patients.
Patanjali (who wrote the Yoga Sutra) has said that one develops concentration and clarity of thought by practising Pranayama. It helps in increasing the mental and physical powers of endurance. It is the path to deeper relaxation and meditation and is a scientific method of controlling breath. It provides complete relaxation to the nervous system. It provides relief from pain caused by the compression of nerve ending. It helps in increasing oxygen supply to the brain which in turn helps controlling the mind.
Pranayama works as the basis for spiritual awakening in yoga. Although this is the supreme aim, Pranayama brings about tremendous benefits along the way such as increased energy, increased perception and development of various brain faculties.
What is Pranayama?
To most, control of breath is Pranayama. However, this is a result of wrong interpretation.
For a rightful interpretation, it must be understood that ‘prana’ is an energy or life force that is universal in nature – it is omnipresent. A portion of that prana is also present in the human body. It flows at a superficial level to maintain the body and its organs.
The goal of Pranayama is to increase the quantum of this life force (Prana) so that it can reach out to ‘hidden’ recesses of the brain. This helps in expanding the human faculties and retarding degeneration.
How Prana operates?
All the life force or Prana lies as dormant potential energy called the ‘pranashakti’ or ‘kundalini’. It resides at a centre which is found just above the genital area, called the ‘muladhara chakra’.
According to yoga, this prana flows from the base ‘muladhara’ center up along the right side of the spinal column into the center which lies at the top of the spinal column. This center is called the ‘Ajna Chakra’. The prana also gets distributed to the whole body through a different set of nerve channels so that it reaches every atom of the body.
This is how prana operates in the normal body and the scope of Pranayama is to extend this influence beyond the physical body.
Prana and the Brain
Modern science has divided the brain into three parts: the new brain, the middle brain and the primitive brain. According to yoga, the primitive brain forms nine out of ten parts of the brain. These parts are ‘silent’ and unexplored. The next phase of evolution will see the development of these parts and Pranayama helps achieve that.
Pranayama helps create a greater quantum of prana and also purifies the channels that will carry this increased prana to these ‘silent’ areas of the brain. It is very important that the channels be purified first to cope up with the increased energy created by Pranayama.
When this fantastic amount of energy is created it flows from the muladhara (root chakra) through the right side of the spinal column (pingala nadi) and up to the Ajna Chakra (Third Eye). From here it flows into the silent areas of the brain. These are the little known brain areas that house ‘mysterious’ faculties such as clairvoyance, intuition and expanded awareness.
By Danielle Bryant BSYA