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"Pranayama" - The Yogic Breathing

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Prana & Pranayama

Breathing is such a crucial functioning that is happening throughout our lifetime. It happens involuntary and is even fainter than our heartbeat. Yoga refers breathing as "pranayama." In Sanskrit, "prana" refers to the “universal life force” and "yama" means to “control” or “take charge of.”

In the science of yoga, prana does not denote the breath, air or oxygen. Precisely and scientifically speaking, prana means the original life force. There are five major currents of vital force that run through our body and organize its physiological functioning. "Pancha Vayu Model" explains about the 5 major currents vital life force. Pranayama is a method that works in the dimension of prana and allows us to take charge of the panch vayus or the 5 currents of prana.

5 vital currents of Prana

Glimpse of subtle body

Nadis are the channels or pathways of prana or life force energy in our subtle body. Nadi is derived from a Sanskrit word “nad” which means the “flow”, “vibration” or “motion”. Its presence is not physically visible but can only be felt through the flow of our breathe. Within our human body, there is a perfect and subtle inherent network of these Nadis that distribute the life force throughout. On the physical level the Nadis correspond to our body’s nervous system. In the science of Yoga, there are 72,000 nadis. The 72,000 nadis spring from three basic nadis – Ida (the left) , Pingala (the right), and Sushumna (the central). Weaving of Ida and Pingala in opposite directions along the path of Sushmna result in our distinct energy centers Chakras.

Why pranayama?

If the prana levels are high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, the mind remains calm, positive and enthusiastic. Most of us lack the knowledge and do not pay attention to our breather. As a result, our chakras may be partially or fully blocked. This blockage leads to jerky and broken flow of our life force energy. As a result, we all experience increased worries, fear, uncertainties, tensions, conflict and other negative qualities. The goal of pranayama is to connect our body and mind. It also supplies our body with oxygen while removing toxins.

Modern scientific research on pranayama

Sundar Balasubramanian, a cell biologist studied how yogic breathing nourishes us. His research and experimentation concluded that practice of yogic breathing resulted in more salivary stimulation. The general thought about saliva is that it aids in digestive process. But after watching his TED talk, I understood that Saliva also carries 22 kinds of growth factors, proteins or hormones. The growth factors also include nerve growth factors. More salivary stimulation would aid to cope up with various physical and mental conditions including Alzheimer’s, cancer, immune response, stress and pain.

Benefits of pranayama

  • Helps to decreases stress

  • Improve the quality of sleep

  • Increase mindfulness

  • Reduce high blood pressure

  • Improves lung function

  • Improves cognitive function

Note of Caution:

Pranayama involves different breathing techniques which needs to be learned and practiced under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.

Personal Experience

I had the issue of sinusitis from 2004. I went to many ENT specialists in India. Most of them put me on mid term antihistamines and pain killers on need basis. This continued for many years and I was not getting any better. I moved to Singapore after my marriage in 2008. My sinus problem got worse with more allergic symptoms into rhinitis. In 2011, an ENT specialist suggested me to get a nasal surgery done as the allergies were becoming severe leading to infections. Rather than seeing the benefits of the medication, I started to experience lot of discomforts. Most significant ones were drowsiness and itchy nostrils. These discomforts interfered with my day to day activities. I was unable to focus on my work and my family . During my next visit, I asked the specialist if the prescribed medication had any side effects? He smiled at me and said, "All the allopathic medicines come with side effects. We prescribe them for any condition if we see that their benefits over weigh the side effects". This statement was an awakening call to me. I started to feel that these medications were only trying to address my symptoms. They are not working on the root cause to eradicate my problem. I further realized that if I continue the same way, I would end up in the cycle of life long medication.

After pondering about this issue for couple of weeks, I decided to bear with the actual condition rather than the side effects of medication. I also felt a great urge to put an end to all these doctor visits. And also, the viscous cycle of consuming antihistamines, using nasal sprays for clearing my nose on a daily basis. I then decided to switch to alternate medication to watch my condition. I was very fortunate be treated and guided by a homeopathic doctor Mrs.Malathi Raghava. She explained me the root cause of this issue and suggested few life style changes to be incorporated in my daily routine. I followed her suggestions and they showed a lot of betterment in my condition. I also started to learn yoga from "Nikkam Guruji" yoga center in Singapore.

My strict adherence to the life style changes prescribed by my homeopathic doctor coupled with the yogic practices of jal neti , kapalabhati and nadi shodhana pranayama took me off all kinds of medication with betterment in my condition since 2012.

I can completely vouch that disciplined practice of pranayama could serve as a pill for may ills.

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