Pranayama – The Science of Breath
Pranayama is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Prana’ (life force) and ‘Ayama’ (regulation). Prana represents vitality, and Ayama means control. Pranayama is the practice of controlling prana through breathing techniques and subtle breath regulation.
By regulating breath, individuals can balance physical, mental, and emotional states, improving performance and reducing stress and anxiety. Pranayama promotes overall well-being and increases energy levels.
Maharishi Patanjali explained Pranayama in his book
तस्मिन् सति श्वास प्रश्वास योग वि विच्छेदः प्राणायामः (Yoga Sutra 2/49)
tasmin sati shvasaprashvasayorgativichchhedah pranayamah (Yoga Sutra 2.49)
Meaning: Patanjali says when the matter is stable, regulating the natural movement of breath and exhalation is Pranayama.
The 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in India explains the following Elements of Pranayama.
These are different techniques and practices that are part of pranayama:
(1). Pancha Prana: Five primary types of prana, which are responsible for different physiological functions in the body.
(2). Pancha Upaprana: Five types of sub-pranas, which assist in the functions of the five primary pranas.
(3). Natural and yogic breathing: Natural breathing is the spontaneous, whereas yogic breathing is a conscious regulation of the breath.
(4). Puraka: Inhalation or the process of taking in air.
(5). Recaka: Exhalation or the process of releasing air.
(6). Kumbhaka: Breath retention or holding the breath after inhalation or exhalation.
(7). Nadi Shodhana: alternate nostril breathing, involves breathing through one nostril at a time while blocking the other.
(8). Anulom Vilom: A pranayama technique that involves alternate nostril breathing with a ratio of inhale, hold, and exhale.
(9). Bhastrika: A breathing technique that involves rapid, forceful inhalations and exhalations.
(10). Ujjayi: A pranayama technique that involves constricting the throat to create a hissing sound during inhalation and exhalation.
(11). Surya Bhedi: A pranayama technique that involves inhalation through the right nostril and exhalation through the left nostril.
(12). Chandra Bhedi: A pranayama technique that involves inhalation through the left nostril and exhalation through the right nostril.
(13). Sheetali: A pranayama technique that involves inhaling through the mouth with the tongue rolled into a tube shape.
(14). Sheetkari: A pranayama technique that involves inhaling through the teeth with the tongue behind the teeth.
(15). Bhramari: A pranayama technique that involves making a humming sound during exhalation while keeping the mouth closed.