In simple words, the Pranayama is diaphragmatic breathing, which we need to learn when we practice Yoga for health care. In our breathing, we inhale and exhale the air. When we inhale, it is only the air; however, what we need is oxygen, the essence and thus the Prana. At the same time when we exhale, we release the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is the food and the need of the plants. Thus through breathing, we unite with the nature.
This process is so logical and yet and so beautiful that we need to learn how to breathe so that we may get the best from our breathing. We may have many causes and reasons for having troubles within our bodies in general, causing diseases. The Pranayama, as learning the art of the extraction of the oxygen from the air is a marvel of our nostrils and the lungs. We may wonder how we get the positive and the negative charges. From the air, we inhale; while it heals our lungs and mechanism of the body. The left nostril gives the negatively charged air, the lunar effect and the right nostril gives the positive charged air, the solar effect.
The Pranayama is thus the biological and psychological study of air and breathing. It has great impact on our body and mind. As we know that air is among the five utmost elements, namely the solid (food), water, fire, air and space--the ethereal part constituting waves, vibrations and radiations. The Pranayama focuses on the fact that breathing is life. We cannot live without it. It is not the controlling of breathing, so much as it is the right way to breath. After the Asanas, control over breathing is next in importance and significance, as the Patanjali Yoga Shashtra says that one who has gained control over the respiratory system has controlled the activities of the mind.
The air that we inhale and exhale purifies all of our organs, from cell to total body level. The proper use of oxygen, the essence of the Pranayama, is not possible, if one does not learn how to breathe. For example, if we inhale and exhale quickly--that is, without the art of the Pranayama--the extraction, action, function and utility of the use of oxygen and that of the released carbon dioxide may not give us a healthy body. We need to utilize the maximum oxygen and for the maximum time. Moreover, we need to exhale the maximum carbon dioxide for internal cleansing of our body.
These both simultaneously make it the art, method and way of Pranayama, while additionally we pause the breathing--which is the air inhaled--so that the oxygen may perform its best work on our body and the mind. Thus, the Pranayama is three-folded activity; the modes of breathing which is as follows.
DESCRIPTION OF THE MODES OF BREATHING AS THE PRANAYAMA:
As we have discussed there are three modes of breathing as thus the following:
1. Rechaka (exhalation)
2. Pooraka ( Inhalation)
3. Kumbhaka ( Retention)
In these exercises, we pull the stomach in and forward in a rhythmic way. It is important to note that we do not push it upward and downward. We do the exhalation, inhalation and retention of the inhaled breath as follows:
Position for readiness: We usually sit on the floor in the Padma Asana (the Lotus Pose) or the Sukha Asana (the Easy Pose). We keep our spine, neck and the head absolutely erect. We look forward, straight at the level of our eyes. Stretch our arms and rest the wrists on the knees. Then we bring the thumb and the index finger so that they form a circle and keep the other three fingers opened straight and joined. We breathe slowly.
STEPS FOR PRACTICE:
1. Exhale slowly through both of the nostrils and simultaneously we pull our stomach inwards, in other words we contract the abdominal muscles to expel air from our lungs. We keep exhaling until we expel the air to the maximum possible for us.
2. After having exhaled, we hold our self in that position for a second and then slowly start inhaling through the both nostrils. We inhale as deeply as possible by stretching out the abdominal muscles. We observe that the expansion of the stomach with inhalation goes gradually and rhythmically, not abruptly or quickly.
3. After inhaling deeply, we pause for a second and then start exhaling again. We continue this process for ten to fifteen minutes. It is one inhalation and exhalation for each time.
DAILY PRACTICE: During the first week of practice, we do this exercise ten times daily and afterward increase it to fifteen times. However, we do exceed from fifteen times per day.
There is another method, which focuses on the retention of the breath for a longer time. It is the Jalandhar Bandha. We will discuss it separately. For now we will stay with the discussion of the benefits of the above Pranayama.
BENEFITS AND THE USES OF THE PRAYANYAMA:
1. It activates all of the organs of the digestive system. Because of this internal activation, it removes and corrects the disorders of the digestive system. The problems like constipation, dysentery, diarrhea, gastric indigestion, and the stomach aches vanish.
2. This Pranayama imparts good effects to the various glands of the endocrine system. The adrenal, panaceas, ovary in the female and the testicles in the male are especially restored by this healing activation, and the energizing effects are enhanced as well. This internal activation helps in the secretions of hormones of these glands in a better way.
3. It activates and thus corrects the disorders of the circulatory and the respiratory systems. It is one of the easiest ways of the Pranayama, which a person of any age can do.
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