The word pranayama is comprised of the sanskrit words “prana” meaning breath or life force and “ayama” to length or expansion. This practice of controlled breathing helps the energy to flow more easily into the nadis or energy pathways and koshas (layers) of the body. The koshas can be visualised as the rings inside a tree trunk, where the outer layer is the physical body, moving inward to the energy (pranic) body, the thinking mind, inner wisdom and spirit. When we influence the flow of prana in the energy body through pranayama its effects penetrate every cell and fibre of our being.
When practicing pranayama, choose an environment that is clear, clean and free from distractions. Begin by observing your natural, spontaneous breath; breathing through the nostrils. As you connect with your breath cycle, observe the four phases of the breath: the inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension. Check there is no holding of breath or strain; that the pauses at the top and bottom of the breath are natural. The more you stay with your natural breath, the more the breath will deepen and lengthen without effort or force.
When we work with pranayama we are looking to cultivate two qualities: dirgha and sukshma. Dirgha means long and steady and sukshma means smooth and subtle. As we find the steadiness in breath, we find a steadiness in the mind, calming and quieting, soothing the nervous system. This in turn triggers a cascade of physiological changes: the heart rate slows down, blood pressure decreases and muscular tension is released.
We discover that changes in the prana maya kosha (energy body) affect the physical and mental bodies. When we find the steadiness, quietness and space within these outer layers, we open a doorway to the deeper and subtler aspects of self. Our inner wisdom, intuition,creativity and spirit move into our field of awareness as the ripples of disturbance subside.
Here is a simple pranayama practice. Enjoy!
In practice, I find patience and peace