BENEFITS OF PRANAYAMA
Breathing is the first and last act of our life. With Breath in we become alive and with Breath out we become dead. It is so simple and so obvious that normally we take it for granted. This is the Breathing that holds the very fabric of life and key to our health and wellness.The breathing pattern of most people is very shallow, minimal and use very small portion about 1/11th of the lungs capacity. This low capacity breathing pattern deprives our body from proper oxygen and prana for health and wellbeing. Hence, breathing practices become very essential for the well-being of body, mind, and heart. The rhythmic and deep breathing patterns harmonize the rhythm of our body, mind, emotions. This harmonization brings them in tune with the rhythm of nature for our holistic health and life. Yogis say breathing is the connecting force of body mind and spirit. Hence, spirit can dwell and express itself in the body through breathing.
Importance of Breathing Practices
From very ancient time the Rishis, Yogis of India have well understood the benefits and importance of breathing practices. It is for our health, well-being and for expansion of consciousness to attain enlightenment or samadhi. They have formulated varieties of breathing practices known as pranayama practices for the expansion of prana. It refers to the life force to lead a healthy, disease free life and to attain highest state of consciousness and self-realization. In yoga, the human life span also considered in terms of breathing. As yoga says faster the respiration process, shorter the life span, slower the respiration process, longer the life span. Ancient yogis have realized the well connection between the speed of breath and life span. They developed to increase the duration of breath with help of pranayama practices. In this context a contemporary yogi Swami Shivananda says “A yogi measures the span of life by number of breaths not by number of years.”
Energy Body and Benefits of Pranayama:
From yogic prospective one of the most important benefits of pranayama is to expand the Pranamaya Kosha- the energy body . In order to experience higher state of consciousness. This expansion of Pranamaya Kosha helps us to navigate easily into other deeper subtle bodies. Pranayama Koshas like Manomaya Kosha – the mental body. Vijnanamaya Kosha – the wisdom body, Anandamaya Kosha – the Bliss body. The awareness and understanding of these inner most subtle bodies leads us to realize our true self and establish our self in true nature. According to Hatha Yoga Pranayama practices, on combination with mudras and Bandhas are considered the key to work deeply on energy body and its expansion. The major components of Pranamaya Kosha are:
Nadis– The vast network of energy channels or paths
Chakras– The energy centers or energy pool
Kundalini– The main energy source that helps to attain Samadhi
Through pranayama one can clear the blockage on the energy paths and open up to have free flow throughout the body. Pranayama practices also help to re-direct the energy into specific path for the activation of kundalini, chakras. These practices prepare path for higher yogic practices like Dharana, Dhyan, and Samadhi.
Higher Consciousness and Benefits of Pranayama:
Breathing gives birth to natural consciousness through life. It become one of the most important medium to experience super consciousness by observing incoming and outgoing breath. So, we can easily transported into higher state of awareness and feelings that heightens our sense, perceptions to recognize the higher realms and mysteries of life. During our yoga practice, we are continuously instructed to breath consciously to enhance our awareness, to be in the present moment, and get rid of the past and the future. This conscious breath assists us to bring more awareness and understanding to the root causes of our imbalances. Such as at physical, mental, emotional levels and fix them accordingly. Hence, both in Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga traditions, the pranayama becomes the central practice of inner journey. This Pranayama act as a joiner of the outer yogic practices( Bahiranga sadhana) like yama, niyama, asana with inner yogic practices (Antaranga sadhana) like pratyahara, dharana, dhyan and samadhi.
Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
We also find a great importance of breath for meditation in one of the ancient most yogic text called Vigyan Bhairav Tantra. This Vigyan Bhairav Tantra explains 112 meditation techniques. These techniques developed by Shiva for the attainment of oneness with the universe. This yogic text also considered as the encyclopedia in the world of meditation. The first 9 meditation practices of this text best on breath and breathing process. This is what that proves how the breath becomes so important for meditation and higher consciousness.
Anapana Sati Yog
Gautam Buddha has also developed a great meditation technique that is based on watching and observing the incoming and outgoing breath cycle. His breath meditation technique popularly known as Anapana Sati Yog. Buddha has made this mindfulness of incoming and outgoing breath, the very basis for the Vipassana meditation. Hence, in all Buddhist traditions and sects Anapana Sati Yog is one of the key practice of meditation.
Kabir, another mystic and renowned yogi of India once asked his disciple that “Student tell me, what is God?” while answering to this question Kabir says “ God is the breath inside the breath”. He means God is our very subjectivity, our very interiority that we can find within. God is not an object that we can see Him outside. Kabir says we can experience the God in our innermost core of existence with the help of breath.
Benefits of Pranayama as Described by Ancient and Modern Yogis:
“Chale Vate Chalam Chittam Nischale Nischalm Bhavet” Means when Prana (Breath) moves Chitta (The Mental force) moves, When Prana is without movement, Chitta is without movement. ~ (Hatha Yoga Pradipika- 2/2).
In this Sutra of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Svatmaram established the fundamental relationship between breath and mind. He says our breath and mind are directly and proportionally connected with each other. It means when breath is disturbed or irregular, then mind is disturbed, when the breath is calm and quite, the mind also become calm and quite. The entire science of pranayama practices based on this sutra of Swami Svatmaram.
“Pracchardana Vidharanavyam va Pranasya” – Steadiness or One-pointedness of mind can be achieved through forceful exhalation followed by retention of breathing. (Patanjali Yoga Sutra- 1/34)
In this Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Rishi Patanjali outlined how we can come out from highly disturbed, agitated and excited state of mind (Chitta Vikshapa) through breathing practice. He says when our mind is highly disturbed, we can achieve one pointedness of mind (ekagra). This can be achieved through forceful continuous exhalation followed by retention of breath.
“Tatah Kshiyate Prakasha Avarnam” – As a result of pranayama (Breathing Practice), the veil of impurities that covering the light of knowledge is destroyed. Then discriminative knowledge and understanding is gained. (Patanjali Yoga Sutra- 2/52)
In this Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Rishi Patanjali explains the effects and benefits of Pranayama practice. He says pranayama destroys the over crowded clouds of thoughts that hide the light of eternal consciousness. Pranayama also decreases the properties of Rajas i.e. overactivity, instability of mind and Tamas i.e. lethargy, inertia of mind. It restores sattvic properties like peace, joy, harmony of mind. Pranayama also prepares our mind to be suitable for concentration – dharana and meditation – Dhyan.
“Dharanasu Cha Yogyata Manasah” – As result of Pranayama the mind becomes fit for concentration (Dharana)- (Patanjali Yoga Sutra- 2/53)
In this sutra, Rishi Patanjali says Pranayama practice us a great help to make mind more sharp and suitable for concentration. As Pranayama practice greatly calms down the mind, drops the disturbances and brings back the attention to the body. to the breath and to the mind to here now which is prior requirement of any higher yogic practices like dharana, dhyan etc.
“Purvajitani Karmani Pranayamena Nischitam” – All the Karma whether acquired in this life or in the past are destroyed by the practice of Pranayama (Shiv Samhita – 3/49).
In Shiva Sutra, Shiva says pranayama practice can erase all the past impressions, conditionings that have been already acquired. Dissolution of past karmas lead us to experience ultimate freedom and liberation.
“Pranayama (Kumbhakat) Kundalini Bodhah” – Through practice of Pranayama there is Arousal of Kundalini. (Hatha Yoga Pradipika- 2/75).
In this Sutra of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Svatmaram talks how pranayama can be an important tool to awaken kundalini and experience samadhi.
“Breath: A Bridge to the Universe. If you can do something with the Breath, you will suddenly turn to the Present. If you can do something with Breath, you will attain to the source of life. If you can do something with Breath, you can transcend Time and Space. If you can do something with Breath, you will be in the World and also Beyond It. Breath has two points. One is where it touches the Body and the Universe, and another is where it touches you and that which transcends the Universe”. (Osho).
“Controlling the Breath is a Prerequisite to controlling the Mind and the Body”. (SWAMI RAMA).
Our 200 hour Yoga teacher Training Course and 200 hour Meditation teacher Training Course provides good opportunity to experience, to understand deeply the above yogic benefits of Pranayama. This helps to lead a holistic, peaceful, joyful and harmonious life.