Prana and lifestyle
Lifestyle has a profound impact on the pranayama kosha and its pranas.Physical activities susch as exercise ,work ,sleep ,intake of food and sexual relations all effect the distribution and flow of prana in the body .Faculties of the mind such as emotion,thought and imagination affect the pranic body even more.Irrigularities in lifestyle ,dictary indiscretions and stress deplete and obstruct the pranic flows .This results in what people experience as being `drained of energy ‘.Depletion of energy in a particular prana leads to the devitalization of the organs and limbs it governs and ultimately to disease or metabolilc dysfunction.The techniques of pranayama reverse this process,energizing and balancing the different pranas within pranayama kosha .Pranayama practices should b performed after asanas in an integrated yoga program.
Breathe ,Health and Pranayam
The breathe is the most vital process of the body .It influences the activity of each and every cell and ,most importantly ,is intimately linked with the performance of brain.Human beings breathe about 15 times per minute and 21600 times per day.Respiration fuels the burning of oxygen and glucose ,producing energy to power every muscular contraction ,glandular secretion and mental process.The breathe is intimately linked to all aspects of human experience.
Most people breathe incorrectly ,using only a small part of their lung capacity .The breathing is then generally shallow ,depriving the body of oxygen and prana essential to its good health .The first five practices given in this section are preparatory techniques,which introduce correct breathing habits.In addiction,they help focus the awareness on the breathing process ,which is otherwise normally ignored .practitioner develop sensitivity to the respiratory process and retrain the muscles of the pulmonary cavity ,enhancing their vital capacity and preparing them for pranayama.
Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration stimulates and is stimulated by calm ,content ,states of mind .Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical ,emotional and mental blocks .These ,in turn ,lead to inner conflict ,an unbalanced personality ,a disordered lifestyle and disease .Pranayama establishes regular breathing patterns,breaking this negative cycle and reversing the debilitating process.It does so by giving us control of the breathe and re-establishing the natural ,relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.
Although breathing is mainly an unconscious process, conscious control of it may be taken at any time .Consequently ,it forms a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind .Through the practice of pranayama ,the energy trapped in neurotic ,unconscious mental patterns may be released for use in more creative and joyful activity .
Breathing and Life span
In addiction to influencing the quality of life ,the length or quantity of life is also dictated by the rhythm of the respiration .The ancient yogis and rishis studied nature in great detail.They noticed that animals with a slow breathe rate such as pythons ,elephants ,and tortoises have long life spans,whereas those with a fast breathing rate such as birds,dogs,and rababits live for only a few years.From this observation they realized the importance of slow breathing for increasing the human lifespan.Those who breathe in short ,quick grasp are likely to have a shorter life span than those who breathe slowly and deeply .On the physical level,this is because the respiration is directly related to the heart.A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger and better nourished and contributes to a longer life .Deep breathing also increases the absorbtion of energy by pranayama kosha ,enhancing dynamism ,vitality and general wellbeing .
Pranayama and the spiritual aspirant
Pranayama practices establish a healthy body by removing blockages in the pranayama kosha,enabling increased absorption and retention of prana .The spiritual seeker requires tranquility of mind as an essential prelude to spiritual practice .
To this end,many pranayamas techniques utilize kumbhaka,breath retention,to establish control over the flow of prana,calming the mind and controlling the thought process.
Once the mind has been stilled and prana flows freely in the nadis and chakras ,the doorway to the evolution of consciousness opens,leading the aspirant into highest dimensions of spiritual experience .In the Science of Pranayama ,Swami Sivananda writes,”There is an intimate connection between the breathe,nerve currents and control of the inner prana or vital forces.Prana becomes visible on the physical plane as motion and action ,and on the mental plane as thought .Pranayama is the means by which a Yogi tries to realize within his individual body the whole cosmic nature,and attempt to attain perfection by attaining all the powers of the universe.