Pranayama is defined by breath control, but it is not simply breath control. Prana (the vital energy, life force) can be directed by regulated breathing under the control of specific visualization. Ayama means control, extension or expansion. The practice should not be approached with an attitude of control but as an opportunity to simply notice.
Pranayama utilizes breathing to influence the flow of prana in the nadis =energy channels /// The Sanskrit word nadi derives from the root nad, which means “flow,” “motion,” or “vibration.” The nadis, like the chakras and other aspects of the subtle body don’t show up under microscopes, therefore medical science has relegated them to the realm of the merely metaphorical. According to many Tantric texts, the human body contains 72,000 nadis that channel prana to every cell.
With the extension or expansion of the dimension of prana,one can go beyond their normal boundaries and attain a higher state of vibratory energy and awareness. Different breathing patterns create different effects upon the subtle energies. Controlled breathing is quite different from the often shallow and unconscious rhythm of our daily life.
Lifestyle has a profound impact on pranayama. Exercise, work, sleep, food and relationships affect the flow of prana in the body. Emotions and imagination affect the pranic body even more. Stress obstructs the pranic flow. This results in what people experience as being “drained of energy”.
The breath is the most vital process of the body. Influences the activity of every cell and is intimately linked with the performance of the brain. Breath connects the body and the mind.
Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical, emotional and mental blocks. Pranayama opens the mind, freeing the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and habits.
On the physical level respiration is connected to the heart. By breathing from the upper third of the respiratory system pranayama can move blocked pathway to the brain and nervous system, creating new patterns. It revitalizes the body and creates clarity of mind helping us to control emotional pain.
Pranayama begins with the development of yogic breathing. The practice should always take place in a well- ventilated room. It should not be practiced on a full stomach and the body should be relaxed. Ideally some asanas should be practiced before pranayama. Breathing flow should be equal in the nostrils. Breath should be retained as long as it is comfortable. Lungs are very delicate organs and any misuse can easily cause them injury. Over time the capacity to hold the breath under control will increase. A bath or shower should taken before the practice and avoid it for at least 30 min. after the practice. We should allow body temperature to normalize. The classic lotus (padmasana) is ideal for pranayama practice. Anyhow the sitting position should be a comfortable and sustainable , even on a folded blanket against the wall with legs crossed or outstretched. The best time for practice is at dawn, when the body is fresh and the mind has few impressions. The other is after sunset. Try if possible to practice at the same place and time each day. Regularity in practice increases strength and willpower.