Many people equate Prana with Air or Breath, therefore, define 'Pranayama' as 'exercise of breathing'. But this concept is wrong and misleading, Prana, is the vital energy which is invaded each and every element of the world. It is, no doubt, related to the air and breath. But Prana is not only the air; it is vital energy in air. While talking of Pranayama, we should always keep in mind the difference between air and vital energy within it. Pathanjali Maharshi mentions " the holding of breath is as important practice as of reaching Samadhi " .
In a living body five types of pranas are responsible for various activities; they are Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana & Samana Pranas. Out of these five Pranas, Prana and Apana are most important. Prana is upward flowing energy and Apana is downward flowing energy.While inhaling we takes Prana to anus and unites it with Apana. When we exhales, apana is drawn up. In the process of retention, activities of pranas are made to centralise near a particular region.This method causes mind to be free from thoughts, and the same will be helpfull to practitioner in suceeding meditation and samadhi yoga kriyas.
Practice of Pranayama achieves balance in activities of these pranas, which results in healthy body and healthy mind.
The Five pranas and their respective functions are--
i) Prana- The Faculty of Perception.
ii) Apana - The Faculty of Excretion.
iii) Samana - The Faculty of Digestion.
iv) Vyana - The Faculty of Circulation.
v) Udana - The Faculty of Thinking.
Apart from these Pancha Pranas,there are sub- pranas which corresponds to other metabolic activities. They are --
Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya. Their respective functiuons are--
i) Naga does Eructation and Hiccup.
ii) Kurma performs the function of Opening the Eyes.
iii) Krikara induces Hunger and Thirst.
iv) Devadatta does Yawning.
v) Dhananjaya causes Decomposition of the body after death.
Primarily,Panayama make's respiratory system function at its best, upon which, functioning of pancha pranas are mailny depended,which are 'the Life principles' . So it is mandatory for every one to know basics of respiratory system before going for a thourough study and practice of Pranayamam. The aim of pranayama is to infuse, control, regulate and balance the Prana Shakti (vital energy) in body.
It is not only a special recommendation but also a mandatory to Pranayama practicers to have knowledge of Pancha Pranas, because, in Pranayama Practice these five Major Pancha Pranas are the first body constituents which receive 'Activation'. It's wise to give an alert that,"The process of Swasayamam will be called as Pranayama when the practicer practice the pranayama keeping in view of activation of their Pancha Pranas, if not, it will be only Swasayamam or Breathing Exercise".
Physiology of Pranayamam :
The breathing process chiefly involves two activities, viz., inhaling and exhaling. Of these, former is called "Puraka" and later as "Rechaka".These two activities continue non-stop right from birth to death of a person. The state when these two activities are made to halt is given the name "Kumbhaka".The halt after inhaling i.e., Puraka is called "Anthara Kumbhaka" and after exhaling, i.e. rechaka is called "Bahya Kumbhaka".If the prcticer does the practice along chanting of a manthra then it is called as "Sagarbhaka Pranayamam or Sahitha Pranayamam",if the practice is devoid of any manthra,then is called as "Agarbhaka Pranayamam or Kevala Pranayamam".
Breathing is an exceptional function of body which is regulated automatically by Autonomic Nervous System. The yogic tradition claims that all functions of the body including heart beat can be controlled by one-self,eventhough they are controlled by Nervous System. But it needs very thourough knowledge & practice and a keen eye on self respondig system.But untill the yogi attains such kind of thourough knowledge; practicing control of breath is the most accessible way to create a bridge between the body and self-controll system of one-self.It will be right time, here, to know more about lungs, their functions,exact breathing process and its outcome ?
The Lungs :
The organs of respiration consist of two lungs, one on either side of chest and the air passages that lead to them. They are located in upper thoracic cavity of chest, one on each side of median line. They are separated from each other by heart, the greater blood vessels and larger air-tubes.
The lungs are spongy, porous and their tissues are very elastic with inumerable air-sacs filled with air They are covered by a delicate serous membrane called pleura which contains serous fluid to prevent friction of lungs, during the act of breathing. One wall of the pleura closely adheres to lungs & other wall is attached to inner wall of chest. Through this membrane the lungs are fixed to wall of the chest. The right lung consists of three lobes. The left lung contains two lobes. Each lung consists of an apex and a base. The base is directed towards diaphragm( muscular septum), the dividing wall between throat and abdomen. The apex situated above, near the root of neck.
The air-passage consists of-- the interior of nose, pharynx or throat, larynx or the wind box, or sound box, which contains two vocal cords, trachea or windpipe: right and left bronchi and smaller bronchial tubes.
When we breathe, air enters through nose and passes through pharynx and larynx, trachea or windpipe, then into right and left bronchial tubes.Which in turn, subdivide into innumerable smaller tubes called bronchioles, which terminate into minute subdivisions in small air-sacs of lungs, which are present in millions in lungs. The air-sacs of lungs when spread out over an unbroken surface, will cover, an area of 1,40,000 square feet.
The air is drawn into lungs by the action of diaphragm. When it expands, the size of chest and lungs is increased and the outside air rushes into vacuum thus created. The chest and lungs contract, when diaphragm relaxes and the air is expelled from lungs.
During deep prolonged inhalation, a pressure is created in thoracic cavity that stimulates several effects of the Sympathetic Nervous system,the most notable of which are temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Deep prolonged exhalations tends to activate opposite branch of Autonomic Nervous System--the Parasympathetic--which again has many effects,which are also temporary--but immediate, like--drop in both heart-rate and blood pressure.The number of respirations per minute is 16.
The inhalation, often thought of as an expansive breath, actually creates pressure around heart, which creates corresponding actions in nervous system generally called sympathetic actions.Deep exhalation tends to shift these in opposite direction. Thus, in personal practice, if one has a tendency toward anxiety and is trying to release stress, a breath ratio that emphasizes exhalation will be more helpful. On the other hand, in an individual who tends towards depression or lethargy, the same breath ratio will reinforce difficulties.So, a ratio in reverse order will give desired effects,that is relese of lethargy or depression. This is how, the modifications in inhalations and exhalations will bring greatchanges in energetic levels in a personnel.
Lungs purify the blood. When blood starts its arterial journey, it will bebright-red and rich-laden with life-giving qualities and properties. When itreturns by venous route,it will be poor, blue-laden with waste matters of body systems. Arteries carry pure oxygenated blood from heart to, towards different parts of body. Veins carry back impure blood from different parts of body.
The right side of heart contains impure venous blood. From right side of heart, the impure blood goes to lungs, for purification. It is distributed among millions of tiny air-cells of lungs. A breath of air is inhaled, oxygen in air comes in contact with impure blood through thin walls of hair-like blood-vessels of lungs called pulmonary capillaries. The walls of capillaries are very thin. They are like muslin cloth or sieve. Blood oozes out or exudes readily. Oxygen penetrates through the walls of these thin capillaries. When oxygen comes in contact with tissues, a form of combustion takes place. The blood takes up oxygen and releases carbondioxide generated from waste products, and also poisonous matter, which has been gathered up by blood from all parts of body systems. The purified blood is carried by four pulmonary veins to left auricle and then to left ventricle. From the ventricle, it is pumped into biggest artery, aorta & from there to different arteries of body.
From arteries pure blood goes into thin capillaries. From capillaries the lymph of blood exudes, bathes and nourishes the tissues of body. Tissue respiration takes place in tissues. Tissues take up oxygen and leave carbon dioxide. The impurities are taken by veins to the right side of heart. From arteries the pure blood goes into thin capillaries which spread over entire body.It is estimated that, in a day 35,000 pints of blood traverses capillaries of lungs for purification.
With the study of this physiology,anyone can understand that the activity of body can be regulated and controlled through the controll of breathing.The minute practicer changes&controlls ratio of breathing by Pranayamam automatically the flow of blood, amount of oxygen supplied to body cells, activity of body cells & tissues ,and infact, entire system of respiration and circulation gets alert (which are the basic systems for rise of any kind of diseases and derailments). So if the practicer think wisely, and act with a proper and suitable schedule of techniques i.e., combination of pranayamam,asana,bandha&mudra definately any kind of derailment or disease can be cured.
Tips to magnify the results of your Practice :
1]Find Which ratio of triad i.e., Puraka,Rechaka,Kumbhaka is suitable to your body stature and health,because, in every pranayam the triad will have different ratios, as a charectaristic of that particular Pranayama Technique.
2)Find which Asana can give you more advantages, and, infact which can be most suitable & also required by your body stature & Physical Status.
3]Find Which are other Asanas or Bandhas and Mudras can be practiced along with that particular technique of Pranayama,for enhancing advantages and efficacy of Pranayama.
4]If you plan for 1 or 2 other Asnas and Bandhas or Mudras along with pranayama at-a-time to practice, all together as one unit or one cycle, your precious time will be saved, and with in a shorter period of time you will be able to magnify the results of your practice to its maximum efficacy.
5]As Jalandhara Bandha can be practiced with any kind of Pranayama,in any Asana posture, alon with any Mudra,try to remember and practice in every combination, which will defiantely magifies the effect of Combination.
6]Like Jalandhara Bandha ,, Anuloma-Viloma Pranayama can be practiced before performing any other Pranayama as a warm-up exercise. Because Anuloma-Viloma activates and prepares nervous system instantly for practice.
7]Bad and poorly performed posture will lead to shallow breathing and low endurance.
8]One must empty the bladder and bowels before starting pranayama yoga.
9]Pranayama yoga must be performed in empty stomach, & when the pollution is at its lowest level.
A special designed Pranayama Process along with specific Aasana yield more Specific and magnified results
There is no ' More Secret Science than Pranayama & There is no " a Better friend than Pranayama to man" --Mahatma Gandhi
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