Pranayama – Art of Breathing
Pranayama is the extension of life force energy in the body, which supports health and
longevity. Pranayama is the breathing practice of yoga and is the disciplining of our life force
energy (prana), to remove blockages within our physical and energetic system, to clear illness
and pain and ignite the spine to help regulate the nervous systems, so that we may achieve
higher states of consciousness and awareness.
Understanding and controlling prana is the key to health mind/body balance.
Conscious breath control is the key to realizing the benefits of asana as it brings us into a
deeper connection with our inner self.
“Prana” is the subtle energy or life force that links matter and spirit, the astral and the
physical. This vital energy or life force, located in the body’s nadis or energy channels, is in
all life forms and is central to all yoga practices. Prana is a subtle force of energy
carried in food, air, water, sunlight, the atmospheres we spend time in, the
people we surround ourselves with, and it animates all form of matter.
“Ayama” means extension, expansion, to stretch, lengthen, prolong, regulate
Benefits of Pranayama - Pranayama helps reduce stress, quiets the mind, enhances
concentration, memory and focus, and invigorates, heats and purifies the body.
Nadis: According to ancient tantric texts, our
bodies contain over 72,000 nadis or energetic
channels, which in essence are like the bodies
irrigation system, channeling prana to every
cell. The 3 main nadis are Ida, Pingala and
Sushumna is the central channel and is
associated with the river Saraswati. The
purpose of hatha (ha – sun, tha- moon) yoga is
to balance the sun moon energies, the right
and left brain, male and female, the rational
and intuitive, which leads to the rise of
kundalini energy and the awakening of
higher consciousness. It is said that along the
spine is the direct highway that the earth
mortal must follow in ascent to liberation.
Ida is the left channel. Ida is white, feminine,
cold, and represents lunar energy. Originating in Muladhara Chakra, Ida ends up in the left
Pingala is the right channel. Pingala is red, masculine, hot, and represents the solar energy.
Originating in Muladhara Chakra, Pingala ends up in the right nostril.
Kundalini, derived from “kundla” meaning a ring or coil, is known as ‘cosmic energy’ or
‘serpent power’ and represents our consciousness. It is depicted as a hungry snake who lies
dormant, coiled 3.5 times around the base of the sushumna nadi, until we get the fires of
spiritual practice going to initiate the process of spiritual evolution, rising up through the
levels of consciousness present at each chakra point. The awakening of kundalini is marked
by a balance of dualities – inner/outer, left/right/, sun/moon, practice/play.
Our evolution, kundalini energy rising, is marked by an elevated or evolved perspective on
life’s challenges, seeing them as integrated and integral parts of our lives; As opposed to
simply “getting over” our problems, we rid ourselves of the poison of delusion and ignorance,
gaining clarity of spiritual awareness. A clear sign that the poison is removed is when we can
respond to internal cues, thoughts and emotions, to inform decisions about what uplifts us and
allows for an elevated state of mind.
Why do we bother spending time alone with ourselves?! Meditation allows us to have a
complete, simple and direct relationship with who we are. The power of introspection allows
us to cultivate our witness, strengthening our ability to see things as they are, without
masking or veiling our ego’s fear and hopes, preferences, likes and dislikes. Meditation leads to
intuition, inner awareness of our true self and a state of peace and bliss. Meditation helps us
focus the mind and keep it positive, helping us transcend fear, desire, longing, negative
emotions and ever positive attachments. It gives us the immediate knowledge that unites the
individual soul, jiva atman, with the Supreme Soul, atman.
Meditation opens the metaphorical 3rd eye, or Ajna chakra, allowing us to see that
the spiritual world and material world are not separate so that we can transcend the ego to
concentrate on a broader awareness of the universe and one’s relation to it. Seeing more
clearly through our daily habits, our stories, our illusions, Maya, leads us to a life of wisdom,
peace & equanimity.
Buddha said that all beings suffer (this is the first noble truth of Budhhism) and that
suffering arising from our feeling of separation and lack of understanding of our true nature;
when we are not aligned with the natural order, we create pain and struggle. Pain is a sign
that we are moving out of alignment, against the natural order. Instead of fighting the pain
and considering it negative we can to align ourselves with the whole. The more we align
ourselves, the more freedom we feel.
Challenges to Meditation
Negative thoughts feed into the mind: sleep, lethargy, too much talking, negative influences,
anger, fear, hatred, jealousy, revenge, dwelling in the past, the ego. Each challenge is a test to
strengthen the mind. The mind increases in power when it overcomes challenging