Pranayama: Breathing for long life and good health

--Engr. Nasim Ahmed, Additional Chief Engineer, Mechanical Wing, RHD

31. Nasim Ahmed

Pranayama is a method of complete respiration. It is the skill of breathing properly. Prana means vital force or life energy (Chi in Chinese language or Rxebxkw³) and yama means to improve. Hence, pranayama means to improve the life energy by regulating the breathing process. Prana is the primary and vital life force present everywhere in the body that energizes and stimulates the mind. Taking a deep breath fills the lungs with pranic energy. Through the blood, pranic energy is transferred to all parts of the body. If we do not breathe properly, parts of the body remain deprived of the vital energy, which may result in some sort of illness.

Pranayama is a precious component of Yoga. It is a breathing exercise to rejuvenate our body, mind and soul. Pranayama teaches us the right procedure to inhale and exhale the air. The procedures of pranayama are more than six thousand years old, originated in China and later developed in India, practiced by the ancient Himalayan Yogis. Prana is nurtured by five elements;

Air, Water, Earth, Sky and Fire.

These elements when in a balanced state help the human body to sustain itself and bring harmony to our life. But when this balance is disturbed, a diseased state sets in. Disease in the body is simply a state of disordered air, which is the most predominant factor. Next to air comes water and then the remaining elements. We can regulate the effect of air in the body by guiding the breathing process, i.e. by pranayama.

2.         The following aspects greatly impact our Pranic effciency-

1)         Process of breathing

2)         Chakras

3)         Nadis-the pathways of Pranic Current

4)         Meridians

5)         Disease

6)         Food

7)         Psychic disorders

8)         In-built habits and tendencies

9)         Sex related problems.

10)       Socio-economic and family related problems, including job related problems.

Most of the aspects are interrelated and inter-dependent, but have separate entity also. For instance, when we eat wrong and prohibited food or inhale polluted air, our digestive and respiratory organs capacity to function adopt a low tone, thereby affecting entire metabolism. Further, tendencies like avarice, anger, hatred, arrogance adversely affect glandular secretions thereby disturbing our physical chemistry, so on and so forth.


3.         The four stages of breathing

In pranayama one is aware that the act of breathing has four distinct stages. We normally think in terms of only two, inhalation and exhalation, forgetting the brief pauses after each before we change gear and go into reverser as it were.

The four stages are-

i)          Inhalation, or puraka. This in Yoga is a continuous process, evenly controlled.

ii)         A pause in breathing, called kumbhaka, retaining the air in the inflated lungs. When distinguishing this from stage iv, which is a pause on empty lungs, we will call this stage full pause.

iii)        Exhalation, or rechaka. Again, this should be a smooth and continuous process, a recoil, or letting go from the inflation of the lungs, the expansion of the thoracic cage, and the pressing down of the diaphragm. In Yoga special care is taken to make sure out breathing is thorough.

iii)        A pause in breathing again, this time on empty lungs. This is in effortless breath suspension (kumbhaka), at the end of which a slow smooth inflow of air through the nostrils commences, and we return to stage i.)

4. The respiratory system

It enables oxygen from the air to be taken into the bloodstream and provide energy to the body to meet it’s need to function. Air inhaled through the nose or mouth enters the trachea or windpipe in the throat. The trachea divides into two tubes (bronchi) that enter the lungs, which are spongy, elastic, ‘air filled organs on either side of the heart. Within each lung, the bronchi branch into smaller and smaller tubes. These tubes (bronchioles) carry air into tiny sacs (alveoli) which are surrounded by microscopically fine blood vessels (capillaries), walls of which are so thin that oxygen from the air easily diffuses through them into the blood in exchange for carbon-di-oxide, a waste product, which is breathed out. Thus with each breath, oxygen is absorbed into the blood, enabling production of the energy that fuels each body function (see figures below).

5. Energy wheels or chakras

For thousands of years, Chinese and Indian philosophers believed that human organism gets most of it’s energy from invisible rays entering through the top of the head. We know the soft spot on an infant’s head, which the skull closes with age to protect the delicate brain tissues. This opening receives energy from the mother while in womb.

The philosophers teach that the crown of the head remains the primary entrance of vital chi (life force) throughout the life. In addition, significant amount of chi also come up through the feet, along the spine, from Mother Earth. As the chi enters the body, it passes through and activates the seven primary and two secondary energy wheels or chakras as shown in the diagram. These are the centres of physical and psychic energy, mentioned here by Indian and Chinese terms.

Primary Chakras-

1. Muladhara (Root)

2. Swadhisthana (Health)

3. Manipura (Navel or power)

4. Anahata (Heart)

5. Vishuddha (Throat)

6. Ajna (Third Eye)

7. Shahasrara (Crown or Brain)


Secondary chakras-

8. Lao Kun (Palms)

9. Yung Chuan (Feet)

There are of course many other energy points and junctions along the energy meridians, corresponding to our nervous system, which lace our bodies. The acupuncturist uses these points to cure illness or relieve pain. The major chakras are all located along the spinal column and are closely related to the endocrine system, the nervous system and the circulatory system of blood.

In the condition of health and vitality, our chakras vibrate, transmitting energy to all parts of the body. We need to mix and balance the inherent energy, the earth energy, with the energy coming in from the universe, to create a steady chakra system. When balance occurs, the physical body will perform optimally and a unified organism will result. And when the balance is disturbed we face illness.

6. The human aura

It is a luminous cloud surrounding the human body (as you see around the head in the picture of Jesus Christ). For thousands of years, it has been believed that a clairvoyant (AZx›`ªxq `„wóm¤úbœ) person can see ‘an aura surrounding a human body. The aura differs from person to person in colour and character expressing the health, emotional and spiritual attributes of the subject.

7. Water in the early morning

Water is a panacea (me©‡ivMwbeviK Jla) for chronic and incurable diseases. Rise early from bed.  Do not wash your face or mouth. Sit comfortably and drink 3 large glasses of water holding the glass with ten fingers of your hands. The energy cycle of your body is thus complete, energizing the water also. Do not take any food for at least 30 minutes. The water does it’s job in your body as the second element nurturing your prana. Take wash after drinking water. Regular intake of water in the early morning gives you much comfort from many diseases like


Headache, Migrane

Asthma, Cough

Urinary problems

Digestive disorders


8. Some Methods of pranayama

A 40 minute standard pranayama session

Get up early from sleep, take 3 big glasses of water, have toilet, have wash, have prayers, then do the following

i)          Warm uv by jogging for 3 minutes.

ii)         Om breathing-

The first sound in the universe is “Om” It vibrates your whole body & brain and also exercises your nerves.

a)         Sit in padmashan, close eyes, spine your upright and rest your hands on knees.

b)         Take a very deep breath.

c)         Exhale long with sound in mouth as aa—oooo- mmmmmmmm… …………as long as you can and feel the vibration in your whole body and your brain. You can also feel it exercising your nerves.

d)         Do 8 rounds.

iii) Alternate nostril breathing-

a)         Sit on a chair or bed, spine upright and feet flat on floor.

b) The index and middle finger of right hand are bent against the palm. The thumb and two remaining fingers are kept straight.

c) Use the ring finger for closing the left nostril at side of the nose. Breathe out long then pause and breathe in long through the right nostril. Again pause. Then close the right nostril with thumb. Breath-out long, then pause and breath-in long through left nostril.

Again pause. Carry on for 32 times.

iv) Ujjai breathing in three stages (it stimulates D¾xweZ K‡i your body, mind and soul)

a)         Sit in bajrashan, keep spine upright, close eyes and put hands your on waist.

b)         Take a deep breath, In -2-3-4,

c)         Hold your breath, Hold -2-3-4,

d)         Forcefully breathe out with sound in nose, Out -2-3-4-5-6,

e)         Hold your breath, Hold-2.

Do 8 rounds. Now pause for half minute with normal breathing. Put your hands beside chest and do 8 rounds. Again pause. Put your hands on back of neck and do 8 rounds.

v)         Vastrika breathing-

a)         Stand in a comfortable position, spine upright.

b)         Raise both hands up with open fingers and forceful deep breath-in with sound in nose.

c)         Forcefully bend hands with closed fingers with slight pressure on both sides of chest (so that remaining air gets out) with forceful exhale and sound in nose so that mucus, if any, gets out. Do 8 rounds.

vi)        Rvthmic breathing as of Nature (the whole of the Nature breathes, we know)

d)         Sit in a comfortable position, close eyes, spine your upright.

e)         Rest your hands on knees, keep thumb and index finger in energy cycle and palm towards sky to receive energy from space.

f)         Do “So-Hum” with big circle (long breath)16 times, medium circle (medium breath) 16 times, small circle (very short breath) 32 times and again big circle 4 times.

vii)       Now lie on your back with palms down and relax 100% for 10 minutes and breathe normally. Then breathe long and feel and say in mind “Fresh air is coming in my body and stale air is going out of my body”. Do it 16 times. Then get up and engage in daily life and now for a long time you can feel fresh air coming in and stale air going out of your body, enriching your body, mind and soul.

10. Enrich your life with Pranayam

Practice pranayam with as much perfection as you can. The more perfect it is, the more benefit you can reap. It is best in free natural air and loose cotton clothes on. No leather belt on waist, wrist or elsewhere. Do pranayam with empty or half empty stomach anytime but best in the morning, all days of the week or at least on weekly holidays .Do not take any food or drink within 20 minutes of completing pranayam session. You can also practice pranayam methods like ii, iii, iv and vi suitably in your workplace or during travel.


Note-1: Procedural details of pranayama cannot be included in this literature. It is suggested that interested persons first attend a pranayama session under supervision of a trainer and then practice by themselves.

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