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Pranayama - A Science of Breathing - 1


Breath and Prana

Breathing is a vital process which starts at the time of birth and stops at the death. The important Oxygen is provided to all the parts, organs and cells of the body. The maximum time a person can survive without oxygen is about 4 minutes. All the metabolic processes require oxygen. Oxygen is life, a vital force. This vital energy is called Prana.


What is Pranayama?

The process of controlling the Prana is called Pranayama. So pranayama is the science related to vital force supplying energy and controlling the body mind complex. Breathing is the process of taking in this vital energy and removing the waste products out of our body and mind. Generally breathing includes inhalation and exhalation but pranayama includes retention of breath (known as 'Kumbhaka' in Sanskrit) as well. This is a very important process. The air can be retained in the lungs or out of the lungs. The ancient texts say that retention of air, increases the level of prana (energy) in the body, also it regulates the flow of pranic energy through out the body. So pranayama helps remove all the ailments and also can stop the aging process of the body.

Mind and breath

The mind, consisting of thoughts and emotions is closely related to the breath. When the mind is calm and relaxed, the breathing is smooth and slow. If you are stressed breathing is fast & shallow but mostly through chest. When one gets angry, the breathing becomes fast and forceful, in depressed states sighing, when in pain gasping, in anxiety shallow and rapid. In this way, the mental and emotional states affect breathing.

Rhythmic Breathing is Pranayama

All the processes and organs like heart, brain, digestive organs, endocrine glands in the body have rhythms. Also the breathing has specific rhythms. Pranayama is Rhythmic breathing, bringing the breath in natural rhythm by controlling the process of inhalation, exhalation and retention.

Physiology of Yogic breathing

In process of breathing, one uses diaphragm, intercostals muscles in the chest. The diaphragmatic breathing is called vertical breathing and is considered a more efficient way to inhale air than inhaling while expanding the chest which is called horizontal breathing...

In pranayama, one should utilize the diaphragm efficiently to get more oxygen without making more efforts. The diaphragm is attached to the organs like heart and lings, also the liver, spleen, pancreas and stomach from the bottom side. Efficient movement of the diaphragm makes the functioning of these organs more efficient.

We will see Deep breathing & Fast breathing from Pranayama Perspective in next article.


Mr. Gandhar Mandlik (Rishi Dharmachandra)

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