What Is Pranayama?

~ An Introduction ~

Written by Joto Rivas

According to yoga philosophy, the postures are merely preludes to deeper states of meditation that lead us toward enlightenment, where our minds grow perfectly still and our lives grow infinitely big. But just how do we make the leap from downward dog to samadhi? Ancient yoga texts give us a clear answer: breathe like a yogi.

Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling the breath, lies at the heart of yoga. It has a mysterious power to soothe and revitalize a tired body, a flagging spirit, or a wild mind. The ancient sages taught that prana, the vital force circulating through us, can be cultivated and channeled through a panoply of breathing exercises. In the process, the mind is calmed, rejuvenated, and uplifted. Pranayama serves as an important bridge between the outward, active practices of yoga—like asana—and the internal, surrendering practices that lead us into deeper states of meditation.

Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels. It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual and cosmic energy. All vibrating energies are prana. All physical energy such as heat, light, gravity, magnetism and electricity are also prana. It is the hidden or potential energy in all being, released to the fullest extent in times of danger. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is energy which creates, protects and destroys. Vigour, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana.

Pranameans breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy or strength.

Ayama means stretch, extension, expansion, length, regulation, prolongation, restraint or control.

So when we combine both words together we get Pranayama, which means the prolongation of breath and its restraint.

Pranayama is indeed an art and has techniques to make the respiratory organs to move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively, in order to bring prana to every part of the Self.

Pranayama can be an intricate practice that should be introduced by an experienced teacher, specifically in pranayama.

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