Definition: In Sanskrit, ‘prāṇa’ means breath, and ‘āyāma’ means length, expansion, extension, and “refining”. In a deeper sense, expansion of individual energy into cosmic energy is also called prāṇāyāma.
Prana connects all of life in a web of subtle energy exchange. What we breathe in the trees breathe out. What we breathe out the trees breathe in; there is no coincidence that our lungs look like trees.The vibrant pulse of prana animates all life, and breath is a most powerful tool for influencing our energetic state and connecting with the invisible forces around us.
“The mystic always consults his breath in the evening and in the morning in order to know whether it is harmonious with the sun, with the moon, and with the planets. He is always conscious of the breath. This is achieved through concentration.”
— Hazrat Inayat Khan
2.49 tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh gati vichchhedah pranayamah
Pranayama is the conscious, deliberate regulation of the breath replacing unconscious patterns of breathing. It is possible only after a reasonable mastery of asana practice. — Patanjali
Since life consists of rhythm and vibration, dis-ease arises when the natural flow of life energies is suppressed or overworked. Conscious breathing helps to remove blockages of energy and restore balanced rhythm. The word prana in sanskrit means breath or life. It shares a meaning with the latin word for breath: “spiritus”, which also means spirit. To breathe, or respirare, is to be infused with the life-giving spirit/soul through the prana that animates all of life.
Stabilizing and refining prana is absolutely essential to all practices of yoga. Conscious breathing practices help you to explore the subtle realms, and refine your energy by serving as a bridge between body and mind. They are a link between your voluntary and involuntary systems, the conscious and unconscious mind. In a mystical sense, breath is the bridge that connects “heaven and earth”.
Pranayama also tones your nervous system, improves circulation, detoxifies the blood and oxygenates your brain – simultaneously affecting your mental and physical state. This state of balance and ease supports the more inward and subtle practices of Raja yoga.
Yogis throughout the ages have extolled the virtues of breath practices as a most valuable aid in the pursuit of physical health, mental purification, and higher consciousness. When combined with yoga asana and meditation, you have the foundation of a strong personal practice that will anchor your inner journey. Incorporate conscious breathing into your practice and reap the benefits on all levels of your life.
Just poses are not enough, discover a yoga approach that transforms yourself and your students. Integrate body, mind and spirit through mantra, asana, philosophy, meditation, raga music and breath.
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