pranayama module of 500 hour yoga teacher training courseBy Dr. Rita Khanna

In Yoga, breathing is considered a very important process as it is the most vital means of absorbing Prana into the body. The Shastras explain how Prana gives consciousness and life to every creature which breathes. According to Taittiriya, Brahmana and Maitri Upanishads and Shiva Swarodaya, the breath is referred to as the vehicle of Brahman or cosmic consciousness. Even the Bible implies that man was given consciousness and life through the breath: “The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul” (Ge. 2:17). The breath itself, being imparted from the cosmic self, contains the cosmic force therein.

 

The breath has so much importance in human existence that the ancient Rishis or seers evolved a complete science around it, just from studying the simple process of respiration. This science, Swara Yoga, however, should not be confused with Pranayama, though both deal with Prana. Swara Yoga emphasises the analysis of the breath and the significance of different Pranic rhythms; whereas, Pranayama involves techniques to redirect, store and control Prana.

Prana and mind exert an influence on each other. When the Pranas are restless, they affect the mind and vice versa. By controlling the Pranas through the practice of Pranayama, the restlessness of the mind is automatically controlled.

Balancing Ida and Pingala: Becoming aware of the breath has a calming effect on the mind. In Pranayama, relaxation is achieved through the total awareness of the breath, and through the subtle control and modification of the breath. As per Swara Yoga, three different flows of energy are created in the nostrils – Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. The left nostril is connected to the Ida network of Nadis; and the right nostril to the Pingala network of Nadis. When the left nostril is flowing, Ida stimulates the mental faculties; and when the right nostril is flowing, Pingala stimulates the body. When both the nostrils become active simultaneously, then Sushumna Nadi stimulates the Atma or spiritual potential. This usually occurs for a couple of minutes only, during the period of change over of breath from one nostril to the other.

 

Correct Breathing: Most of us breathe incorrectly, using only a small part of our lung capacity- Shallow respiration or rapid breathing, as in a stressful situation, builds up stagnant air in the lower regions of the lungs. Also, normal breathing takes place either in the abdomen or in the thorax or chest. By combining the abdominal and thoracic breathing, it is possible to inhale the optimum amount of air into the lungs, and exhale the maximum amount of waste air. According to Yoga, this is the way everyone should be breathing.

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