Pranayama- Yogic Breathing
प्राणस्येदं वशे सर्वं त्रिदिवे यत्प्रतिष्ठितम् ।
मातेव पुत्रान्रक्शस्व श्रीश्च प्रज्ञां च विधेहि न इति
PRANASYEDAM VASE SARVAM,
TRIDIVE YAT PRATISTITHAM.
MAATEVA PUTRAN RAKSJASVA,
SREESCHA PRAGNAMCHA VIDEHINA ITI
What ever exists in three worlds, Is all under the control of Prana.
Hey Prana, Please protect us as a mother protects her sons,
Give us affluence and intelligence
Prana in Sanskrit means the "Life Force" or "Vital Air" or "Breath"
Ayama means "Extension"
Pranayama means "Extension of Life Force or Breath"
Pranayama is the link between the Mental and Physical discipline. While the action is physical aspect; the effect is to make the mind calm, lucid and steady. - Swami Vishnu-Devananda.
Yogic philosophy believes that Prana is found in all living things. Absorption of Prana is happening in multiple aspects for a life form. In take of food, juices, water, sun light etc. Knowledge and Control of Prana is Pranayama.
Let's focus on the Physical aspect of Prana.
Most of the times, only fraction of the potential lung capacity is used while breathing due to shallow breathing. The shoulders are hunched, rib cage is hardly expanded. Feeling tired or exhausted is due to lack of adequate oxygen. Ancient Yogis explained three types of breathing and together they form the complete Yogic Breathing.
Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing
With an inhalation, the diaphragm moves downwards compressing the abdominal organs so that the abdominal wall extends outward. With an exhalation, the diaphragm moved upward again and the abdominal wall flattens. In contrast to inhalation, the exhalation is a passive process.
The abdominal breath forms the basis of breathing as it allows the full use of lung capacity, slows down breathing in a natural way promoting relaxation.
With an inhalation, the ribs are lifted upward, outward and to the sides; so that the chest expands. With the exhalation, the ribs return to their original position. The air flows into the middle lobes of the lungs.The lungs are not as filled as in abdominal breathing and the breath is more rapid and shallow.
This breathing occurs automatically in a stressful situation, due to nervousness or tension. The unconscious use of this rapid form of breathing creates a heightened state of tension or stress. To break this unfavorable cycle, slow and deep abdominal breathing is a great relief.
Collarbone (Clavicular) Breathing
With this type of breathing, the air flows into the top of the lungs. With an inhalation the upper part of lungs and collarbones are lifted and with an exhalation, they lower again. This breath is very shallow and rapid.
This type of breathing happens in the situation of extreme stress or panic or when there is great difficult in breathing.
Increasing vital capacity is the goal of Pranayama.
Pranayama divides one breath in three parts-
Inhale- Pooraka means breathing in
Exhale- Rechaka means breathing out
Retention- Kumbhaka means holding the breath either after in hale (Internal - Antar Kumbhaka) or after exhale (External- Bahya Kumbhaka)
Regular practice of Pranayama has many benefits such as-
Enhance lung capacity, circulation, digestion, metabolism, sleep pattern
Relieve stress, slow down heart rates, relaxation
Optimization of Prana which leads to abundance of energy
Pranayama practice prepares one for Dhyana- Meditation as it helps calming down the mind.