The word “prana” means life force and is believed to be the vital energy or life force that flows throughout the body. This also serves as the link between the consciousness and the mind.
“… Once the breath is still, your mind is still as well…”
It is this life force that exists in all things, whether animate or inanimate. Although closely related to the air we breathe, prana is more subtle than air or oxygen.
Therefore, pranayama is considered to be a form of breath regulation aimed at introducing extra oxygen into the lungs and retaining carbon dioxide in the blood cells a little longer, and can be viewed as voluntary hypoventilation (breathing at a slower rate).
Pranayama utilizes breathing to influence the flow of prana in the nadis or energy channels of the pranamaya kosha or energy body.
There are eight pranayama practices accessible to the aspiring yogi which differ according to how kumbhaka (breath retention) is incorporated into the practice.
Pranayama differs from cleansing breaths in that the practitioner incorporates retentions, or locks, into their practice. In the absence of the retention, one is practicing breathing or cleansing exercises (kriya).
The pranayama practitioner, uses the breath in one of four different aspects:
- Pooraka or inhalation
- Rechaka or exhalation
- Antar kumbhaka or internal breath retention
- Bahir kumbhaka or external breath retention
Notice that the last two aspects are kumbhaka, breath retentions (or locks).
The eight different practices of pranayama involve various techniques which I will elaborate upon in future posts.
Until then, experience practicing this technique:
- Sit in a comfortable seated position, either cross-legged on a mat, or in a high-backed chair, palms on the knees or thighs.
- Lengthen the spine, ground through your sit bones and observe the inhale and exhale through the nostrils.
- Inhale for a 4 count, hold for 7 count and exhale for a 7 count.
- Repeat step 3 at least 9 more times.
How did you do? Let me know by posting a comment in the Comment box.
Written by Mimi Adeogba, DN, Ph.D.