“Once established in asana and having control of the body, eating a balanced diet, pranayama should be practiced according to the instructions of the guru. Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:1
Prana is life energy, force or breath of life. It is the force that exists in all things. Although it is related to the air we breathe, prana is more subtle than air and oxygen.
Yama is control and means rules or codes of conduct, ayama instead, is extension or expansion, the latter meaning would be the most correct to use instead of control.
Thus, Pranayama will mean extension or expansion of the dimension of prana. This energy or life force can be regulated or activated to obtain higher states of vibrational energy and consciousness.
There are 4 aspects of pranayama:
- Inhalation or puraka
- Full lung retention to or kumbaka
- Exhalation or rechaka
- Empty lung retention to or kumbaka
Breathing techniques will include these four aspects. Kumbaka is the most important, because it occurs in the states of meditation. Have you noticed, for example, when you are absorbed in the cinema, watching a movie that captures all your attention or reading a novel that you can’t stop reading, what is your breathing like in those moments? You hardly notice it at all, but in states of stress, tension or agitation, both physical and mental, a type of short, shallow, gasping breath predominates. So it is in the states of meditation where our breathing becomes softer and slower, and it is between inhalation and exhalation, in kumbaka, where true meditation takes place. However, at the beginning of the practice of breathing techniques, more emphasis is placed on the inhalation and exhalation.
Breathing is the most vital process in the body. It influences the activity of every cell and it is intimately linked to the brain. Most of us breathe incorrectly using only a small part of our lung capacity. Breathing thus becomes shallow depriving the body of essential oxygen or prana for good health.
The practice we will teach you below consists of preparatory techniques that introduce correct breathing habits. They also help to raise awareness of the breathing process, which is usually ignored. Respiratory sensitivity is developed to prepare us for pranayama.
Rhythmic, deep and slow breathing, stimulates mental calm. Irregular breathing leads to mental and emotional blockages. We will see this more broadly soon, in Ayurvedic Psychology.
Breathing is an unconscious process. But conscious control of it can be carried out and as a consequence it creates a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind.
Breathing is intimately associated with the heart. A slow breathing rhythm keeps the heart stronger and nourished and this contributes to a longer life. For Ayurveda the place of the mind is not the head but the heart. Breathing will thus be intimately linked to mental processes. By controlling the breath, we control the mind. However, the heart of which Ayurveda medicine speaks is ambivalent, it is both the organ and the brain.
We will share with you a video with an introductory exercise to the techniques of pranayama. The first exercise refers to the awareness of breathing, it is about observing, without interfering with the flow of breath. The second exercise refers to abdominal breathing, the most natural and efficient breathing. It is the breathing that the baby does spontaneously. If we have the opportunity to see how a baby or child breathes, we will see that when he inhales his abdomen swells and when he exhales it deflates. In the course of our life we forget this natural way of breathing either by the posture we are acquiring, the lack of training or the use of finished clothes that hinder the circulation of air. We show you how to reconnect with this breathing and put it into practice in your daily life.