September 3, 2014

Pranayama- The Art & Science of Vedic breathing exercise

“When the breath wanders, Mind wanders, when the breath is steady Mind is steady

 HathaYoga Pradeepika

Pranayama, a consciousness-based practice of controlling and regulating the breath, lies at the heart of yoga. It has a mysterious power to soothe and revitalize a tired body, a flagging spirit, or a wavering mind. The ancient sages taught us that “prana”, the vital force circulating through us, can be cultivated and channeled through a spectrum of breathing exercises. In the process, the mind is calmed, rejuvenated, and uplifted. Pranayama serves as an important bridge between the outward, active practices of yoga asana—and the internal mental practices that lead us into deeper states of meditation.

According to ancient Yogic texts, “Asana is meditation on the body, Pranayama is meditation on the breath (prana) and subtle energy currents (nadis) within us, and then we work with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body as well as mind and experiencing the higher Self.”

There are several Pranyama techniques that are classically described, but we must select appropriate practice for individual needs. If done properly it has invaluable health benefits but when performed in hurry or a jerky manner can pose some challenges. One must train themselves or others from simple to more advanced pranyama techniques.

There is ample scientific research proclaiming its benefit for Anxiety, Depression, ADD, respiratory diseases, insomnia, digestive disorders and headaches.

Here are few most commonly used pranayama techniques.

Nadi Shudhi pranayama starts with an exhalation and an inhalation through the left nostril, followed by a full breath through the right, with the whole pattern repeated several times. It is highly effective in clearing emotional blocks and infusing energy.

Kapalabhati consists of multiple rounds of rapid breathing in which the breath is forcefully expelled from the lungs with a strong inward thrust of the abdomen.

Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath), a practice in which the throat is slightly constricted and the breath made softly audible.

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), is a rapid, forceful, diaphragmatic breathing which is an excellent tool for cleansing toxic gases and clear congestion.

At more advanced levels of practice, one can incorporate Pooraka (Inhalation) Kumbhaka (Breath Retention) & Rechaka (exhalation) into variety of Anuloma and Viloma techniques. One can also practice Pranayama with different Bandhas(locks) & Mudras.

This practice eventually leads to slow and deep breathing which improves longevity and spiritual experience.

As teachers, we must understand and respect the limitations of our clients and quietly prepare them for a regular practice. It is only with time and regular practice that they are able to perfect the breath and reap its benefits.

These techniques offer us diverse yet inspiring prospect that there may not be one right way to enjoy the gifts of pranayama. As teachers, we need to offer a range of tools to our students and let them use their experience and discrimination to discern which approach works best.

Each of them must decide for themselves which method steers them closest to yoga’s ultimate gift: the ease, balance, and inner calm that reveals the very heart of life.  We must encourage and inspire them to use Asana, Pranayama & Meditation, as primary tools to lead a Yogic Lifestyle, which is, simply translated as mindful or enlightened living.

Suhas Kshirsagar BAMS, M.D. (Ayurveda)

Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar is a world-renown Ayurvedic physician & Educator from India born of a traditional Rig-Vedic family. He holds a M.D. in Ayurvedic Medicine, with a Gold Medal from the prestigious Pune University in India.

He is an accomplished Ayurvedic physicians, who has traveled worldwide popularizing Ayurvedic Medicine, setting up clinics, training health professionals and has provided Ayurvedic consultations for thousands of his patients.

He is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, experienced Clinician, researcher & an insightful Medical Astrologer, who adds tremendous value to his clients and students alike.

He is currently the Director of “Ayurvedic Healing” an Integrative Wellness Clinic in Santa Cruz, California.

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