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breathing includes breathing fully and rhythmically, making use of all the
parts of your lungs to increase your oxygen intake. Proper Breathing should
be deep, slow and rhythmic. To achieve this, you need to be able to regulate
the length and duration of your inhalation, exhalation, and the retention
of air in your lungs or the pauses between every breath. Yoga breathing
exercises or Pranayama teaches how one can recharge the body and control
the mental state by regulating the flow of Prana - the life force. This
help achieve a calmer and more focused mind and increases energy level.
"When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath," says Svatmarama.
Pranayam, or control/regulation of the life force is thus the fourth step in the Ashtanga Yoga system laid down by Patanjali. It comes after yamas, niyamas and asana. So the first indicator is, it should be undertaken after getting at least reasonable degree of proficiency in the asanas. Control of the body through posture is the first step; control of the breath is the second, which will eventually lead to the control of the prana or life force.
Pranayam is not as complex as it is made out to be, but neither is it something that can be trifled with. The ancient Sanskrit texts state that Pranayam properly done can cure all diseases, but wrongly done will only invite the same diseases! Breathing is an automatic process controlled by the nervous system. We do not have any conscious control over it. Just think what a mess we make of the things we have conscious control on (eg. food). It is thus of utmost importance to learn pranayam from a proper teacher.
The first thing to learn in pranayam is sectional breathing. We breathe through three parts of the chest: upper, middle and lower as well as the abdomen. We have to first learn how to breathe through each part individually before we can breathe through all of them.
Instructions on Pranayam
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