Pranayama: more than breathing

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In each yoga class there is pranayama exercise, normally after the practice of the Asanas (yoga poses). For most of the students this is “just” a breath exercise. Sometimes after a while it becomes, even for those who have been taught differently, an exercise.

I’ve practiced yoga for a long time now, included pramayama in my practices, even though I have been taught in details what it is and what it’s for, sometimes I do not think about it so much.

This just has changed, again, because I’ve been asked to teach my Kung Fu colleagues three basic pranayamas so they also can have the possibility to “control their breath”. I went back to my books I started reading it all over, and like reading everything you read before, I learned a lot of new things, refreshed my memory and was very excited in teaching my friends about how important it is not only to practice pranayama exercises for the Kung Fu training but also for the entire life.

The word “prana” means “vital energy” or “life force”, it is the force which exists in all things, whether animated or not (even a rock is formed by prana). Of course we can relate the air we breathe with life force, without it we would die, but it is more subtle than air or oxygen, therefore pranayama should not be considered breathing exercises aimed to introduce more oxygen to our lungs. The word “yama” means “control”, however this is not the correct word which is joined to prana to form pranayama; the correct one is “ayama” which has far more implications. “Ayama” is defined as “extension” or “expansion”. Thus, the word “pranayama” means “extension or expansion of the dimension of prana”. The Pranayama techniques provide how the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one’s limitations and obtain a higher state of energy and awareness. So, next time you start a pranayama exercise, think about the energy that flows freely within your body, removing blockages creating a doorway to self-evolution.

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