Life begins with a breath and ends with a breath. We exist because life force flows through us. These were the thoughts I had as I ended the yoga practice with a round of pranayama. Such a simple exercise but such immense benefits. Here are some facts on this wonderful yogic breathing:
Through pranayama we tap into the unlimited intelligence of the life force. Pranayama is a series of breathing excersises where we control the breath through inhalations and exhalations. There is nothing forceful in pranayama. As we gently breathe in and breathe out, we flow with flow of life. We move in cohesion with the flow and become one with it. In this oneness we draw from the limitless pool of energy, replenishing ourselves.
Our lifestyle is such that we are constantly exposed to stress. Stress and habits can create energetic obstacles within the body. Our breathing becomes shallow. At any point of time we take shallow breaths. We develop breathing patterns that restrict the flow of breath. When prana or life energy flows through the body it breaks the energetic obstacles that have been created within the body. Through pranayama we start to free these unconscious breathing and emotional patterns, that we have developed over time. Since there is a systematic inhalation and exhalation, the regulated flow of the breath breaks this unconsious pattern of breathing and this in turn frees up the emotional patterns that lie in the subconsious.
As these energetic obstacles break, the body relaxes and heals. Balance is restored to the body and the body starts to self heal. As the body heals ailments start to disappear. These is all unconscious without us realizing what is happening.
With Pranayama we use our entire breathing mechanism. When we inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, the air is filtered and kept moist – the perfect condition for efficient transfer of oxygen to the lungs. When we take a full breath with a longer inhalation, our abdominal organs also move along with the diaphragm. This is important, as the abdomin is already compromised due to long periods of sitting at a desk. This sitting posture does not allow us to use the diaphragm completely. The sitting posture uses only the upper and middle parts of the lungs. Instead of just breathing through middle and upper parts of our lungs as we normally do, pranayama gets the breath to flow through the lower part.
The same case applies when we exhale. A shallow exhalation does not empty the lungs out completely. Deep breathing removes the graviy at the lower section and replinishes the lower lung with nutrients and oxygen due to the movement of air. When we manipulate breath by extending or shortening the length of inhalation and exhalation or by holding the breath, we shift the energy within the body. Energy shift alters our mood considerably. If we go a step further and combine Pranayama with mudras and mantras we can achieve a desired effect.
Our body has a large amount of fluid present around the blood vessels and organs. When we breathe deeply the movement of the air in and out is like a cleansing mechanism. This breathing also promotes the movement of fluid within the lymphatic system. A movement necessary for efficient transfer within the body.
During pranayama the focus is on the breath. Since we focus on the breath our concentration increases. With deep breathing there is also an increase in the amount of oxygen reaching the cells. This also increases concentration in addition to an increase in cellular respiration. Both these start to build up the energy level.
Pranayama consists of various forms of breathing: anulom vilom, Ujjayi Pranayama, Bhramari Pranayama are the ones done on a regular basis. Pranayama is best practised on an empty stomach. It is benefecial right after the yoga asanas are completed and just before meditation. The best position would be a sitting down position that is comfortable – the lotus pose, the cross legged pose or any other sitting pose where you can sit comfortably for 15 to 20 minutes.
So go ahead and take a long deep breath and let the prana flow through you, revitalising, nourishing and soothing you.