Importance of Prana Control Using Breath
Compliments of Samadhi Ashram, Rishikesh, India
In yoga we learn to control prana, the vital force through pranayama. We use the breath in pranayama to learn to control the prana, but don’t confuse prana with breath. Prana is the energy that animates the lungs. It is NOT the breath. Using the breath is the easiest method for training prana. Once you are able to control prana through pranayama you are better able to control the movement of prana to other organs and areas of the body.
Yoga uses different types of breathing to adjust and regulate the body’s energy. Unconsciously the body’s temperament and temperature are regulated through breathing. Typically, breathing is dominated by either the left or right nostril at different times throughout the day. This is accomplished through blood filling erectile tissue located in the nasal cavity, swelling the tissue to reduce or block breathing from the nostril. The breath and underlying energy flow through channels called nadis located on either side of the spinal column. The left one is called Ida and the right is known as Pingala. The feminine, moon energy is connected with the left nostril, flowing through the Ida and cooling and relaxing the body’s temperature and temperament. The masculine, sun energy produced in the right nostril, moves through Pingala, heating up the body and providing active energy. This is why it is easier falling asleep while sleeping on the right side of the body, instead of the left; sleeping on the right side of the body causes the left-nostril to dominate, relaxing the body and mind. Of course, breathing through both nostrils is a way to balance yourself.
Why is there so much focus on the breath in yoga?
In typical yoga class we are instructed to consciously breathe, connect to our breath, breathe deeply, retain our breath, etc. Breathing assists in strengthening the nervous system and the Breath of Fire often used in Kundalini Yoga is an excellent way of demonstrating this.
Breathing consciously is the essence of yoga as it assists us in connecting with the subtle energy within. It is through the breath that we are able to navigate different levels of consciousness. Breathing also consciously has a biological effect on our mental, emotional and physical state.
Connecting with your breath is a way of being “present” or “in the moment”. Unconscious breathing is controlled by the medulla oblongata in the brain stem, the primitive part of the brain, while conscious breathing comes from the more evolved areas of the brain in the cerebral cortex. So conscious breathing stimulates the cerebral cortex and the move evolved areas of the brain. Consciously breathing sends impulses from the cortex to the connecting areas that impact emotions. Activating the cerebral cortex has a relaxing and balancing effect on the emotions. In essence by consciously breathing, you are controlling which aspects of the mind dominate, causing your consciousness to rise from the primitive and instinctual to the evolved and elevated.
“A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.” Swami Sivananada
Many Gurus and Teachers believe the speed at which you breathe will dictate the length of your life. If you breathe fast, your life will be shortened. This is why dogs have short lives.
In this fast paced world we live in today, take the time to control your prana with pranayama through breathing techniques. Try different practices and find the ones you personally find most beneficial for your practice.
Contributed by Samadhi Ashram in Rishikesh, India.