Weekly Food For Thought

Pranayama – A Recap

Most people think of Pranayama as breath control or breathing exercises. Is it just that? The word “prana” refers to the life force or life energy and “yama” is control or regulation. Manifestation of life energy is seen by activity of heart and breathing. Breath is closely related to the mind and emotions and so regulation of breath leads to mind control/purification. There are many types of pranas – the 5 major pranas are associated with breathing, digestion, circulation, elimination and all endocrine functions in the body. Chanting of the food prayer not only purifies the food but it also activates the different pranas. 

There are 72,000 channels/ pathways in our energy body (Pranamaya Kosha). These spring from three basic channels Ida (left), Pingala (right) and Sushumna (central). Sushumna runs along the spinal column and  the Ida and the Pingala spiral around it in a double helix structure crossing each other at nodal points/ junction points called chakras. When pranayama is correctly performed, the energy gets channelized into the energy channels and activates the chakras. Pranayama helps to balance the energy flow in the right and the left side leading to an inner sense of equanimity or balance. With regular practice of pranayama, the person gets transformed and can even change their inner tendencies or vasanas. Thus, pranayama means regulation or control of the life energy or force, which actually leads to channeling the energy to a higher level or awakening of the chakras right from the root or Muladhara chakra to the third eye or Agna chakra.

There are several ways of doing pranayama – depending on the person and reason for the pranayama. The simplest one is alternate nostril breathing and deep breathing. The breathing patterns involve inhalation (pooraka), retention (kumbhaka) and exhalation (rechaka). Swami tells us that pooraka is taking in the good, kumbhaka is retaining the good and rechaka is giving out the bad. All pranayama practices should be learned from an experienced teacher. Swami advices us to do pranayama with a mantra as that will transform us in addition to improving health.

Weekly Food For Thought

Pranayama and yoga for me began as a physical exercise. In the beginning the motivation was to derive some health benefits but now It has become an integral part of my life as I  realized its potential to uncover my true nature.  

Adding Pranayama coupled with few asanas into your daily routine is a great way to access  the inner space and experience peace and restfulness.  
Whenever I  feel tired or frustrated by a task, I  focus on my breath, and observe the rise and fall of the breaths. I feel better after few minutes..I feel Pranayama and Yoga (Asanas) together brings the body and mind to elevated levels of consciousness.  It is a way to bring more oxygen to the system so we feel energized and gain additional strength. It feels almost as though the built up emotions are getting released and we feel relief from them. The major benefits I have seen is that it stills the mind and brings forth the happiness and joy.   

One of the practices that helped me was the concentration. For concentration, I do one eye exercise which helps me focus better. I keep an object at a distance and focus on the object by developing the discipline to return to it every time the mind fluctuates. With this exercise,  I noticed the chattery mind comes to silence after few minutes. This is a great way to train the mind to become the observer of our own thoughts that will transcend us from thinker to watcher. 

We are blessed to be able to use the tools provided by the sages to access the inner realms of our true nature.