Concept of Pranayama according to texts of yoga and Spiritual lore
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement of the
Master's Degree in Yogic Sciences (M. Sc)
by Ramachandra Dey guides Dr. Nagarathna, Dr. H R Nagendra
(Vivekananda Yoga Mahavidya Piöham)
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana
(A deemed University, Recognized by UGC, Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India)
19, Eknath Bhavan , Gavipuram Circle , K. G. Nagar,
Bangalore - 560019, India
Abstract : Pranayama is the science of cleansing, balancing and gaining control over the Prana in the human system. The word Prana is a combination of two syllables, Pra and Na. Prana is the vital life force and Pranayama is the process by which the internal Pranic store is increased. Pranayama is comprised of the words Prana and Ayama which means 'Pranic capacity and length.' It is not merely breath control, but a technique through which the quantity of the Prana in the body is activated to a higher frequency.
In Prashnopanishad, we find a detailed description of varistha Prana and pancha Prana. It is the varistha Prana the eldest and the first boon of atma, that divides itself into five facts: Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana which govern the different functions of the human body. Prana shakti also manifests in six main centers or chakras which are located along the spinal column. Prana is the vital or bio-plasmic energy, which is universal in nature and consciousness, is knowledge. Prana, the nature principle, energy, and matter are called prakrati literally 'activity.' Each fiber of the body is connected with Prana by a complex system of nadi. The function of the nadi can be compared to that of an electrical system. Pranayama is ultimately intended for developing the quality of human consciousness, not just the mind or body.
Summary & Conclusion : Prana, the life force and manas, the mental force, are the two fundamental factors. Every object in the universe, right from the smallest atom to the largest star, is composed of that energy. Prana can never be motionless. The Prana is always moving, and the mind is ever-changing as well. By controlling the Prana, the mind is automatically controlled, i.e. Prana and mind exert an influence on each other. By practicing pranayama correctly, the mind is automatically conquered. The effects of pranayama are not so simple to manage. It creates extra heat in the body. It awakens some of the dormant centers in the brain.
There are various types of pranayama according to ancient yoga texts. They are categorized into two Schools viz. Hatha yoga School and Vasinoha School of Yoga. Hatha yoga School emphasizes one in forceful kumbhaka. There is a risk of side-effect of practicing kumbhaka in this school if not practiced correctly under expert guidance. This most important part of the pranayama is kumbhaka or breath retention. However, in order to perform kumbaka successfully, there must be a gradual development of control over the function of respiration. Whereas, Vasinoha School prescribes only conscious natural retention of breathing (effortlessly) by which the mind brings to happiness. It is observed that both the schools have the same benefits.
Pranayama is one of the best yogic practices for spiritual growth as well as therapeutic applications. By regular practice of pranayama, one can be free from deadly diseases. One can slow the aging process by reducing the metabolic rate through pranayama. It brings balance between the nadas and helps to awaken the Kundalini. One can experience highest state of consciousness when the Kundalini is awakened.
The technique of pranayama provides the method where by the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one's normal boundaries or limitations and to attain higher states of consciousness. pranayama can be the most useful practice for a physical culturist. To the spiritual aspirant its importance is supreme. pranayama is a weapon that easily lends itself to abuse. In playing with pranayama, a man plays with his nerves, heart and lungs. Undue strain or imperfect methods in pranayama may damage these parts permanently, so everyone should proceed into this practice with caution and care. When this is done and when the instructions are attentively and faithfully followed, pranayama is perfectly safe. When rightly done, pranayama will never fail to ensure supreme vitality for the body and eternal peace for the mind.