BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI
As the breath is of utmost important for human existence, so is Prānāyāma for Yoga. The Sanskrit word Prānāyāma is the combination of two words, Prāna and Ᾱyāma. Prāna means breath, respiration, life and energy and Ᾱyāma means the length, expansion or restraint. Thus, Prānāyāma means the 'length of life-giving breath and its control.' Prāna is the primordial life force of human beings that controls the psychological and the physical functions in the body.
Respiration or breathing is an involuntary activity that takes place in the body. We normally do not hold extended breath but often take short breaths. In Prānāyāma, breathing does not occur involuntarily but rather, it is deliberately controlled. By learning the techniques of regulating Prāna - the life-giving breath, a Yogi can relax, maintain equilibrium, invigorate and purify the body as well as the mind. By learning to regulate breath, a Yogi can integrate and unite different parts of the body and can stimulate and revitalize every cell of the body, the result of which is a healthier and dynamic mind and body.
As breathing is an involuntary act, it occurs unintentionally. But, if it is regulated by deliberation, one gains the mastery over ones physiological as well as psychological faculties of the body by gaining the ability of regulating other involuntary physiological processes such as the rate of heart beat, blood pressure, body temperature, activities of the digestive system and activities of the immune system etc .
Yogis have experienced that by learning to regulate breath, they can also regulate the other functions of the body such as those mentioned above. Even modern neurologists have found out through research that a person, if well trained in breathing techniques, can regulate the bodily processes such as blood pressure, sweating, activities of digestive system, secretion of hormones, the urge of urinating and defecating etc. and can attain a healthy body.
Thus, by the conscious regulation and alteration of the involuntary respiration, a person can reap numerous health advantages. Yogic practice of regulating the breath and the length of the breath is known in Yoga scriptures as Prānāyāma. By the practice of Prānāyāma, a Yogi can gain mastery over physical and psychological states. Prānāyāma is easy to practice but should be carried out under the guidance of a Yoga Guru or an experienced Yoga instructor until you master the art of breathing. Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, instructs the Yogi of how to master the science of breathing or the Prānāyāma thus; "As lions, elephants and tigers are tamed very slowly and cautiously, so should Prāna be taken under control gradually according to one's capacity and physical limitations. Otherwise it will kill the person who practices it." Experienced Yogis warn the beginners of Prānāyāma, to follow correct scientific procedures of breathing. If not practiced in a proper manner, a beginner can experience hiccough, cough,
catarrh, headache, painful eyes, irritation in the nervous system etc. Moreover, the person can develop asthma if the correct practices and techniques are not adhered to. So, if anyone is willing to master the art of breathing, he should never be in haste. Learners should be patient as it takes time to take deep, proper, slow and steady breaths.
Interestingly, the life of a Yogi is not counted by the number of days or the years that he lives, but by the number of breaths that he takes. Yogis engage in rhythmic breathing which involves deep and slow chunks of breaths. The rhythmic patterns of breathing helps the Yogi strengthen his respiratory system and to tranquilize the nervous system.
Stages of respiration
Respiration in human body happens in three stages; inhalation, exhalation and retention. Inhalation or the inspiration is known in Sanskrit as Püraka which means the filling up of lung with Prāna Vāyu - the vital energy or the life-giving breath. The exhalation or the expiration is known in Sanskrit as Rechaka which means emptying the lungs. Retention stage is known as Kumbhaka in which the breath is held or retained where neither inhalation nor exhalation take place. Kumbhaka literally means the pitcher or the pot. At times, the pitcher or the pot may be completely filed with water and in the absence of water, it is completely filled with air. Likewise, in breathing, there are two states of Kumbhaka. One is Anthara Kumbhka where lungs are filled with Prāna Vāyu (life-giving air) at inhalation and the other one is Bāhya Kumbhaka, the empty state of lungs at exhalation.
Prāna Vāyu is the vital energy that prevails in a human body. Yogis have identified that Prāna Vāyu dwells in five areas of the body which are known as follows;
Prāna - Prāna air circulates in the area of heart and controls respiration.
Apāna - Apāna air circulates in the areas related to the lower abdomen and controls the ejection of urine and faeces.
Samāna - Samāna air helps digestion by kindling gastric gases.
Udāna - Udāna air is circulated in thoracic cavity helping the intake of air, food and liquid.
Vyāna - Vyāna air circulates in the entire body transporting the energy that is derived from food and the breath that we intake.
There are five types of auxiliary Vāyus found in human body:
Naga - this air helps relieve abdominal pressure by taking air upward from the stomach in the form of burps.
Kürma - this air protects the eyes from foreign matters by enabling the movement of the eyelids
Krakra - this air is responsible in sneezing and coughing to prevent foreign matters from entering into the nasal cavity and below the throat.
Devadatta - allows the intake of extra air into the body in the absence of sufficient oxygen in the body by yawning.
Dhanamjaya - this air remains in the body even after the person is dead and causes the bloating of the corpse.
The Pinda Prāna and Brahmānda Prāna
It is mentioned in Yogic scriptures that Prāna which is in humans, are a part of the Cosmic Breath of the Universal Spirit. An individual Yogi's breath is known in scriptures as Pinda Prãna and the Cosmic Breath is called Brahmānda Prāna. The scriptures also elucidate that through the union of Cosmic Breath and Yogi's breath, a yogi can reach supreme bliss.
A seventeen century mystic says that in order to foster a calm and tranquilized spirit, regulating the breath is of vital importance and if the breath is under control, the heart is at ease and peace. He further explains that if breathing is spasmodic, the heart will be distressed. So he explains that by regulating breath, one can subdue mental distress and tension.Emotional breakdowns affect the rate of breathing in a person. If he is trained to regulate his breath and has a control over it, he can easily get rid of the negative emotions when he is encounters them. Negative emotions can boost the secretion of certain hormones which may detrimentally affect the health of a person.
The objective of Yoga is to attain a healthy body as well as a healthy mind. By practicing Prānāyāma, one can attain the goal of having control of breath to achieve a calm and controlled mind and healthy body.
Model - Sihanga Ravidev
Pic: Avinash Malhara
- Iran’s response to security challenges in West Asia
- Gained dependence of Baltic States
- Religious buildings in Kazakhstan to be labelled 16+
- SEUSL ranked 7th
- Hakeem’s statement ridiculous - Bathiudeen
- LG polls HRCSL to monitor public officials and cops Violations to be dealt with sternly
- To free State institution heads held hostage 6 STF special units in Colombo
- Spanish assistance for ten flyovers
- Don’t forgive robbers of Public funds - Sirisena
- At St. Lucia’s Cathedral Kotahena Schubert’s G Major Mass on 18 Feb
- UNP backbenchers to meet Prez, PM and CIABOC To handover files of SLFP Ministers’ alleged fraud and corruption
- family members of ‘Kudu Suda’ arrested
- Thailand to assist SL agri sector
- Following Bonds scandal UNP internal crisis worsens - Sirikotha
- Alleged manhandling of principal:Premajayantha denounces Uva CM’s actions
- Markets in tumult over political uncertainty
- Susil explains why Prez wants to take over economy NEC’s success or lack may have played a role
- Muslim Matrimonial Law reforms Thalatha gets Marsoof Committee report
- EPRLF MP Sivashakthi Anandan alleges:15 TNA MPs bribed by PM’s Office
- Kataragama rioters cum looters given bail crowd control methods problematic –HRCSL Chair Reiterates call for the Police to come up with crowd control manual
- Long term conciliation in Korea
- Germany and Europe: A New Relationship?
- Key role to strengthen SLFP -Wijewickrama
- Blood donation at SEUSL
- Faizer Mustapha says Muslims must trust SLFP and President
- Mudannayake ‘Sir’ no more
- ‘Singer Cup’ U-19 Cricket Ranasinghe steers St. Anne’s to victory
- Failed attempt to justify Auditor General’s report regarding mismanagement of NOC Funds Maxwell accepts lapses in NOCSL Accounts
- Has Hathu caught a tiger by the tail
- Zimbabwe will look to improve
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Canada and Zimbabwe win
- Kusal Perera asked to rest
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-19 Schools Cricket Lakshan steers DSS to sound position
- Chung dumps Djokovic
- LB Finance win Futsal tournament
- Federer and happy Halep romp into quarters
- New Zealand sink Pakistan
- Smith rejects ball-tampering suggestions after ODI loss
- Warner to lead Australia in T20 tri-series
- Real defy crisis talk as Barca extend lead
- Acceptance of new NSFs by NOC NOC Members expect further clarification from IOC
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-19 Schools Cricket Cambrians win by an innings
- 92nd National Boxing Championship Army retain men’s title MAS Unichela emerge women’s champs
- Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon Madumali finishes 11th with PB
- Man City back on track
- public debate misinformed
- World’s richest 1% gets 82% of global wealth: Oxfam
- Oxford Business Group, Ceylon Chamber to analyze SL trade strategy
- Sampath Samachara loans for rtd Govt servants
- Huawei’s nova2i updating to safe and accurate facial recognition unlock feature
- SLT Human Capital Solutions rewards employees’ children
- Scan Jumbo Peanuts concludes Scan Jumbo Bonanza
- World Economic Forum kicks off today Populism is waning, which is reason to party in Davos
- Cargills Bank pioneers IBM cognitive cyber security
- Practise the four roles of leadership
- Seylan Bank hosting ‘Tikiri New School Term Promotion’
- Amazon opens a supermarket with no checkouts
- Dengue awareness programme held in Piliyandala
- Meet the newest player in the global space industry
- Asian stocks falter as political developments unfold
- Sri Lanka Customs moots authorized dealer system Rs 31 M in counterfeit products destroyed
- 2017’s record exports nothing special - IC
- SL - Singapore FTA to be signed today
- Govt can’t even maintain a policy for two weeks
- VinaCapital, Ataraxia Capital launch $50M Sri Lanka Opportunity Fund
- The March of Folly A disgraceful Attorney General
- Kenyan doctor goes to Court To legalize female genital mutilation
- Foreign missions’ failure to correct Sri Lanka’s tarnished image Tamil Diaspora vilifications
- Concretes & Abstracts Pitipana Committee and Public Debt
- Achieving true lasting reconciliation
- Sparks fly over Power and Energy Sector CEB, PUCSL and Ministry clash as electricity crisis looms
- Vote for women this LG Polls
- Block law’s lacunae Not letting bond thieves go scot-free
- Europe prods homeless with spikes and cold showers
- UN warns of South Sudan’s ‘lost generation’ grinding conflict
- Govt has not lost a red cent from Bond transactions
- Participatory citizenship is important - Rosy
- I have a master plan - Salley
- All set for Free and Fair LG Polls – Mahinda Deshapriya
- If given power We’ll develop country in two years -Chandrasiri Mahagamage
- National Prosperity Turning the Tide
- Disposable coffee cups:British lawmakers call for “latte levy”
- If only we could crackdown on the root causes to effect sustainable solutions Herein lies a Nation’s progress
- Forecast your own destiny An astrological guide
- Kala Sarpa Yoga will test sustainability of government
- TIMING OF EVENTS –CHILD BIRTH
- Season for Marriage and Construction
- Cancer Causing Vastu Defects
- “Hail, Caesar!” Silliness as a virtue
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Our children and our cinema
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Indu & Sanwada We have so much in common
- The Writer’s Kitchenette Vietnamese Fusion Rice Wraps
- ‘Derana Champion’ Shines with OPPO
- A Possible Fallout as US freezes Funds for Palestinian refugees
- Jungle loving President Premadasa
- How Felix Dias became Bandaranaike
- IT IS MY CHOICE
- In your own skin be the barrel you want
- Dear Patriarchy,Dilshani Palugaswewa tells it like it is in this open letter