Practices Of Pranayama
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Control of Breath – Pranayama.

Practices Of Pranayama.

Pranayama constitutes an active part and important part of Ashtang yoga. Continuous practioners of pranayama develop extraordinary physical health, mental health and spiritual power. Modern medicine practices only suppress the symptoms of the disease for a while but they cannot cure the disease. So the symptoms reappear after a while. Most medicines haves so many side effects that they are more harmful to the system than being beneficial. If these medicines are taken for a long time these can completely destroy the natural ability of the body to cure itself.

In Hatha yoga many efforts are done to develop prana through breathing. Pranayama is divided into three parts. Preferably a guru’s presence to teach the pranayama is required so that any wrong practices can be curtailed in time before they can damage the system. All processes of pranayama are described here in detail for the benefit of beginners.

Rechak: During the process of breathing exhaling and inhaling is repeated sixteen to seventeen times a minute. The process of exhaling the air is known as rechak. Pranayama teaches to reduce the exhaling to once in half a minute. Exhaling is done very slowly without taxing the system and without any sound.

Poorak: The inhaled air that goes to the lungs for absorption to other parts of the abdomen is called poorak. Pranayama teaches to take many breaths at once and inhale them at a later stage. But this process is to be done without the system making any noise. The final objective in poorak is to feel the breath reach the soles of the feet. With constant practice this can be easily achieved by most people.

Kumbhak: Kumbhak is the process of retention of the inhaled breath before it is exhaled from the system. There are a few variations of kumbhaks.

Keval Kumbhak: This is the initial version of kumbhak which is generally advised for beginners before they go to other practices. In this variation the breath is stopped all of a sudden without rechak or poorak.

Antya Kumbhak: After forceful exhalation through rechak the breath is kept out. It is not allowed to go back in. The abdominal and lung muscles are kept relaxed. After this poorak is performed slowly after the breath has been kept out for as long as the system can comfortably take it.

Madhya Kumbhak: This is a very important practice of pranayama. After a deep poorak the air is kept in the lungs and the abdomen for as long as the system can possibly take it. This is called Madhya Kumbhak. Air is filled by poorak that it is filled between the navel and Mooladhar. After a while of this process the poorak is performed with the air filling the space between the navel and the heart. Then this process is repeated with poorak performed with air between heart to throat. This entire process completes the breath. This air should be retained inside the system without any leakage for as long as the system can take it. The duration of the entire process has to be increased slowly.

Akumbhak: This is a stage of normal breathing. While we breathe normally the air is not retained in the system. Only rechak and poorak are performed that too monotonously. There is no place for kumbhak. This is called Akumbhak.

Sthan Bhed: This is the process of taking the breath intentionally to any part of the body, as desired. This comes with a little practice and awareness. In poorak the breath is taken right till the mooladhar, which is considered to be an extremity of the body, while sitting in any of the sitting asanas like Padmasana. In kumbhak the breath is retained in the abdomen. In rechak the breath is exhaled. Sthan bhed is an important exercise in controlling the breath.

Kaal Bhed: There has to exist a fixed and definite ratio between all the above mentioned performances, whenever they are performed. Whenever poorak is performed for five seconds using a watch, it is equated with performing kumbhak for twenty seconds. This is to be sufficed with performing rechak slowly for ninety seconds. This whole time span is called kaal bhed. ‘Kaal’ is a Sanskrit word meaning time. According to one’s physical capacity and appropriate practice the time spans can be increased or decreased. But these basic ratios should remain unchanged.

Ganana Bhed: Since using a watch may be distractive, an alternate practice of keeping an appropriate count is generally used. Under this system a watch is not used. For poorak a count of up to ten is used. For kumbhak count is increased to forty. For rechak a count of twenty is used. This counting is done mentally with complete concentration and care is taken to maintain similar frequency of counts. This is also called Samkhya method.

Practicing pranayama can lead to immense benefits for the entire system. Continuous practice and concentrated effort will lead an individual to finally be able to inhale and exhale one breath in the period that is generally allotted to twelve breaths. The practice is believed to yield amazing results both in terms of health and longevity.

Pranayama is of eight different types. Different texts describe their individual and collective benefits. These are described in detail in the section on Yoga in Daily Life.

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