Pranayam means Pran and Yam. “Pran” is nothing but the breath energy which is also the vital energy of this human system and “yam” means to control the breath in such a manner so as to have health and long life.
Indian Ancient Rishis and Yogis have described about 70 types of Pranayams in the various text books of yoga. However about 15 types of Pranayams are popular and essential for maintenance of good health and longevity.
The first and last things we do in this physical lifetime are to take a breath. Along with oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, the breath contains prana, the life force. We are regularly taught we can’t live without oxygen; it is also true we can’t live without prana, the vital force that energizes the mind, body, and consciousness.
Principles to Remember:
•Your rate of breathing and your state of mind are inseparable.
•The slower your rate of breathing, the more control you have over your mind.
•The mind follows the breath, and the body follows the mind.
The breath is a fundamental tool for the Kundalini Yoga student. The average rate of breathing for most people is about sixteen times per minute. When the rate of breathing increases, or if it becomes rapid and irregular, the mind also becomes disturbed and erratic.
One of the aphorisms of Patanjali says that the connection of the vital energy with the mind is such that the stoppage of the breath, even for a few minutes, would bring the mind to its normal condition. There are agitations of force which affect the mind, and these agitations are called “tendencies to pleasure and pain”. Intense exhilaration and intense grief are the two points between which the mind roves in its usual activities. In both these functions of the mind, the vital energy is carried along together with the mind.
A deep exhalation and retention is what Patanjali prescribes in one of his aphorisms to bring about a balance in the thinking process. Intense agitation of the mind caused by any external factor can be brought to a cessation, temporarily at least though not permanently, by deep expulsion and retention of the breath. If we do not want to think something, we can expel the breath and hold it, and the thought will cease to operate.
Difference between Pranayama and breathing
There is a difference between pranayama and breathing process. Pranayama is not a simple breathing process; it is much more than exhalation and inhalation. Pranayama is a regulated breathing, which comprises pukara-slow and prolonged inhalation, kumbhaka-retention of breathe, and recaka-slow and prolonged exhalation. While breathing involves inhalation and exhalation. Pranayama is always performed in specific posture, especially sitting in padmasana while in case of breathing, it is not so like that. Breathing provides physical benefits while pranayama involves physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
Significance & importance of Pranayama
Pranayama is one of the important vital components of Yoga that directly or indirectly affects the proper functioning of different systems of the body. If you practice pranayama regularly, it shows beneficial impacts upon respiratory system, circulatory system, digestive system and endocrine system. Pranayama ensures more oxygen to lungs and good for hearts too. Pranayama tones up kidney and control the functions of nervous system. Kumbhaka or retention of breath helps supply of oxygen or exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide thus facilitates better work of lungs and helps brain to work more efficiently. Pranayama affects autonomic nervous system which controls heart rate, glandular secretions, respiration, digestion and blood pressure.