Sunday, December 12, 2010
by Shareeza SS Faruqui
For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.
~ Sanskrit Proverb
Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. Pranayama promotes proper breathing. In a Yogic point of view, proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with the Asanas. When Asanas are performed with proper Pranayama, the benefits of the postures are more profound and activate the body from within.
What is Pranayama? Pranayama is to restrain or regulate the act of breathing. It is this regulation or restraint that is known as Pranayama. Pranayama are yogic techniques that establish control over the movements of the Pranic forces in the body.
This brings us to the question of what is Prana? Simply put, Prana is Energy. Prana is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “Breath”. However, it means so much more than its dictionary definition of “air that is inhaled and exhaled”. Prana is understood as the vital, life-sustaining force of every living being. Prana is the vital energy in all natural processes of the universe.
As mentioned above, “Prana” is the Sanskrit word for “Breathe” and “Ayama” is the Sanskrit for “Pause”. Together, “Pranayama” is a pause in the movement of breath.
Why is there a need to pause the movement of breath? There are almost 200 physical and psychological symptoms that can be attributed to improper breathing. They can vary from sighing or yawning repeatedly to dizziness, chest pain, headaches, pain in the neck or shoulders, feeling listless, distracted, unable to sleep, having difficulty concentrating and many more. Breathing is the link between the body and the mind, thus the regulation of breath helps condition both. When the breathing is poor, our bodies react.
Therefore, purpose of Pranayama is two-fold. It brings harmony to the entire body system and gives complete mental control. According to the ancient Scriptures, the control of Prana causes equality of vision over all. It generates happiness and deters the mind from being tempted by sensual objects arising in the mind itself. It seems that we are our own worst enemy! It helps regulate needs, wants and desires. It brings about the union of the self with the higher force.
However, before we can delve into the many Pranayama techniques, we must first learn to breathe properly. By practising the art of breathing as taught by the Yogi’s, you will realise how poorly you have been breathing.
Find a quiet place in a well ventilated room. Sit down on a comfortable surface such as a yoga mat or rug, in any seated posture. Place your hands on your knees in “Chin Mudra”. Chin Mudra is achieved by touching together the tips of your thumb to your index finger, while keeping the middle, ring and little fingers open. Relax your shoulders and neck. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose for the count of 4 and exhale for the count of 8. Keep your concentration on the base of your nose. Concentrate on your breathing. Do this for about 10 minutes.
Consistent practise of this beginner Pranayama will leave you feeling refreshed. It will also help clear any nasal and respiratory congestion.