Pranayama – The Expansion/control of Breathing for Stress management
KRIYA → ASANA → PRANAYAMA → YOGI’s Diary # 5
(Yogi’s Diary # 2) → (Yogi’s Diary #3)
‘Tasmin sati Svāsa Prasvāsayór gati viCchédah Prānāyāmāh’ (PYS – 2,49)
Having achieved the Āsana (A comfortable Position/Posture), the next is Prānāyāmāh where the inhalation and exhalation is regulated, slowed and eventually suspended.
To understand the importance of Pranayama in our daily life, one needs to understand the term Vritti. Our emotions, desires, thoughts etc., arise due to the ‘modifications of the Mind’ called ‘Vrittis’.Vrittis are like waves formed in a still body of water. They originate through
- Right Knowledge/Understanding, from direct perception through the sense organs (ex: seeing is believing)
- Misconceptions, due to erroneous knowledge or information
- Imaginations, based on incomplete information
- Sleep, and dream state (where there are no thoughts)
- Memories stored, based on past experiences
The Vrittis generate feelings, opinions, desires and so on. Every Thought Pattern consumes Prāna/Energy. For instance, if one were to see a rope in a dark space, the erroneous knowledge or information that anything coiled and lying in the dark would be a snake will lead to fear or anxiety. This in turn brings about labored breath. Labored breath leads to a lot of Prana/ energy consumption. If at this time, one were to have the knowledge and ability to control ones breath, the entire sequence of events could be reversed. For instance, with easy breathing initiated, you could turn on the lights to see for yourself if it was indeed a Snake.
‘Chalé Vaté Chalé Chittam Nishchalé Nischalam Bhavét
Yogi Stānutvamāpnoti tató vāyuh niroDhayét’ (GS – 1,10)
Explore more about Stress Management and Breathing
When the breath is disturbed, so does the mind too. It is possible for a yogi to become established in himself by restraining the breath.
Have you observed the pattern of your breath:
1) when in fear – labored breathing
2) when relaxed & when in full concentration/ focused on a task – you almost stop breathing
Pranayama alone will not lead to Control of Mind: it has to practised along with Yama Niyama’s of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. This is a different topic – in these Yogi’s Diary sequence, we are currently addressing the Hatha Yoga practice.
Hence the Control of breath/prāna + body means, control over the oscillating Mind. Control over our mind means we can think, pause, concentrate, and obey at will. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika as well as the Gherand Samhita (Hatha Yogic text book’s ) talks about the eight kumbhaka (pranayama). The Hatha Yoga practices leads to a state of cessation of Prana(breath) called Kévala Kumbhaka.
The goal of Patajali’s Yoga Darshana was Samadhi (Refer Yogi’s diary #1). This can also be called Raja Yoga. This goal is attained through the practice of Kévala Kumbhaka(Cessation of breath/prāna).
While through the Raja Yoga practice you can control the Mind, and so the Prana is automatically suspended. This is however very difficult for a common man to achieve. Hence, for some, the easier approach is that of Hatha Yoga with the Prana being controlled first , so that the Mind is conquered.
A Guru or an Acharya plays an important role in guiding the practitioner help attain the miles stones along the Yogic Journey. The Guru observes, understands and advices the necessary practices according to the nature of his disciple.