The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain. Human beings breathe about 15 times per minute and 21,600 times per day. Respiration fuels the burning of oxygen and glucose, producing energy to power every muscular contraction, glandular secretion and mental process. Most people breathe incorrectly using only a small part of their lung capacity. The breathing is shallow, insufficient and not full. The body is then deprived of the vital oxygen and prana essential for maintaining good health.
Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration clams and relaxes the mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical, emotional and mental blocks. These, in turn, lead to an inner conflict, an unbalanced personality, a disordered lifestyle and disease. Pranayama establishes regular breathing patterns, breaking this negative cycle and reversing the debilitating process. It does so by giving us control the breath and re- establishing the natural, relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.
Although breathing is mainly an unconscious process, conscious control of it may be taken at anytime. Consequentially, it forms the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind. Through the practice of pranayama, the energy trapped in neurotic, unconscious mental patterns may be released for use in more creative and joyful activity.
Prana and Lifestyle
Lifestyle has produced impact on our pranayamaya Kosha and its prana. Physical activities like sleep, exercise, work, intake of food and sexual act all dissipates our prana or affects its distribution and flow. Faculties of mind like emotion, thought, and imagination affect the pranic body even more. Irregularities in lifestyle, dietary indiscretions and stress deplete and obstruct pranic flow. This result in what people experience the “drained energy experience”. Dissipation of prana – vital life force eventually results to revitalization of the organs and bodily systems it governs and ultimately to disease or metabolic dysfunction. The techniques of pranayama reverse this process, energizing and balancing the different pranas within the pranayama Kosha. Pranayama practice should be integrated along with asana for complete benefits.
Breathing and Life Span
Breath not only decides the quality of your life but also the length and quantity of life. The state of your health is directly linked on the quality of your breath. Rate of your respiration decides how long you are going to live on this Earth. Slow, long deep, full and rhythmic breath leads to long and disease free life. Amazing but true, we are so unaware about our breath that we forget the basic rule for being hale and healthy and keep chasing other methods to remain fit. The secret lies in your breath. Ancient Indian Yogis had this basic wisdom that our most modern scientist failed to notice in the first place. Our parents didn’t learn from their parents and teachers. So this so important health and spiritual secret couldn’t help the mankind. They noticed that animals with a slow breath rate such as pythons, elephants and tortoises have long life spans whereas those with fast and rapid rates such as birds, dogs and tigers lived only for few years. From this observation they realized the importance of slow breathing for increasing the human lifespan. Those who breathe in short quick gasps are likely to have shorter life span then those who breathe deep, full and slow( Yogic Breath). On the physical level, this is so as respiration is directly linked to the heart. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart strong and nourished and leads to a longer life. Deep breathing also increases the absorption of energy by pranayama kosha ( Body), enhancing dynamism, vitality and general well- being.
Pranayama and Spiritual Progress
Pranayama practice is actually a pathway to rise spiritually. Our mind is like an uncontrolled horse doesn’t want to rest and still. It is the biggest obstacle on the path of our self realization as we are always immersed in the five states of mind and thus trapped in the clutches of the Maya (Illusion). For spiritual advancement, we must learn to be a master of our mind and make it our slave which is actually the reverse right now. We need to use mind as an instrument and medium not as means. Our breath acts like a bridge between our body and mind. Our mind is so full of complexities that it becomes quite difficult to get a hold of its reigns. The only way we can reach our mind is to start controlling our breath. Once breath is mastered and controlled, mind surrenders like a tamed pussy cat. Practice of pranayama controls our breath. Initially it makes our breath full, deep, slow and rhythmic and later on it starts quieting our mind slowly and gradually. The spiritual seeker requires tranquility of mind as a prelude to a spiritual practice. To this many pranayama techniques like Kumbhaka (Breath Retention) actually establishes control over the flow of prana, calming the mind and controlling the thought process.
Once the mind has been stilled and pranas flows freely in nadis and chakras, the doorway to the evolution of consciousness opens, leading the aspirant into higher dimensions of spiritual experience.
“Pranayama is the means by which the Yogi tries to realize within his individual body the whole cosmic nature and attempts to attain perfection by attaining all the powers of the Universe.”
“May all Breathe deeply and slowly”