What is Pranayama?
The literal meaning of the word pranayama as suggested by Patanjali is – cessation of breath i.e. ‘Prana’ + ‘Yama’. It can also be called as the modification of inhales and exhales of the breathing. In simple language, we call it breathing exercises.
Different schools of yoga suggest different times to do pranayama. Some says that it’s better before doing your regular yogic practice of asanas to open up the channels of the body for a more effective practice while the others say that pranayama should be done after the yoga asana practice so as to calm and rejuvenate the mind. In any case, we will recommend you to do pranayama according to your requirements.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama is very effective in improving the physical and mental health of human beings. Along with it, it also helps in spiritual growth. First, let’s talk about the aspect of physical health – There are about 72000 channels in the body and by doing pranayama, a person can regulate a good flow of energy in them. It also makes sure that the flow of oxygen to heart and brain is maintained in the right proportions. It cures the diseases like common cold (phlegm), tonsils etc. Overall, for a good physical health it is advisable to continue the practice of pranayama along with the yoga postures.
For mental health, pranayama is equally important. When the oxygen gets to the brain, it helps to relieve the muscles in the brain and the body which helps to prevent stress and anxiety symptoms. Along with it, mild pranayama helps to cure depression. Before going for a vigorous pranayama practice, you should always consult your yoga teacher.
Spiritual values of Pranayama
It is said that no spiritual progress can be made without the pranayama. Many people find it difficult to agree that how can physical exercise lead to the spiritual growth (most of them who would rather make it a point to believe scientific researches). However, there are many Yogic experts who have made a point to justify the spiritual values of Pranayama.
The first stage of spiritual progress is, of course, the purification of the body and that happens through pranayama and yoga. The second stage is mental clutter clearance. Pranayama makes the mind fresh, improves concentration and clears the clutter from mind. Third stage comes after the first two stages and in this stage purification of the soul takes place.
Continuous use of pranayama balances the flow of life forces in our body. It clears the Ida Nadi and Pingala Nadi which run alongside the Sushumna Nadi or say the backbone.
Once these two nadi are balanced, it helps to awaken the sushumna nadi which leads to kundalini rising. It is the ultimate spiritual growth. While the sushumna is rising, it passes through the energy vortexes in the body called chakras.
There are seven chakras in the body namely as follows:
- Muladhara Chakra: This Chakra is also called as Root Chakra. It relates to a being with the ground. The qualities associated with this chakra are to
balance emotional and financial securities.
- Swadhistana Chakra – This chakra is called as the Sacral Chakra. It represents our relationship with other people in the physical world. The second chakra is located below the belly button.
- Manipura Chakra – This chakra is also called the Solar Plexus Chakra. The element of this chakra is fire. This Chakra is related to the power of change.
- Anahata Chakra – This chakra is also called as Heart Chakra. It includes the love for us and the love for others.
- Vishuddha Chakra- This chakra is also known as the Throat Chakra. This chakra is related to the words we choose to speak, the truth and clarity of voice.
- Ajna Chakra – This is also called as the Third Eye Chakra. This chakra when activated opens you up to the senses beyond our 5 senses. It also strengthens the intuitions.
- Sahaswara Chakra- This chakra is known as the Crown Chakra. It is said that our consciousness is located in this chakra.
So, all of these chakras are awakened when the sushumna nadi rises through them. It is said that the individual power of every chakra is awakened when the sushumna nadi passes through them and when it reaches the crown chakra, it leads to enlightenment.