Pranayama and Ayurveda

What is Yogic Breathing or Pranayama?

‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. Pranayama is the control of prana through the breath. These techniques rely on breathing through the nostrils.

Prana flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras’. The quantity and quality of prana and the way it flows through the nadis and chakras determines one’s state of mind. If the Prana level is high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, the mind remains calm, positive and enthusiastic. However, due to lack of knowledge and attention to one’s breath, the nadis and chakras in the average person may be partially or fully blocked leading to jerky and broken flow. As a result one experiences increased worries, fear, uncertainty, tensions, conflict and other negative qualities.

The ancient sages of India realized these breathing techniques. Some common pranayamas include Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, and Nadi shodan pranayama. Regular practice increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana, clears blocked nadis and chakras, and results in the practitioner feeling energetic, enthusiastic and positive. Practiced correctly under the right supervision prananyama brings harmony between the body, mind and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong

Yoga is generally perceived as a combination of postures for stretching, breathing techniques for calming and relaxation. A general yoga class introduces these yoga practices and while we benefit from the techniques often the deeper and true understanding of yoga is left behind.

While the postures are cleverly designed to affect all the body systems and breathing practices bring awareness of the relationship that exists between the body and the mind there is much more to yoga.

As we explore yoga the importance of the practices dawns and its subtle affect on body, mind and consciousness begins to be experienced.

A lesser known, more subtle and independent branch of yoga is Yoga Tatva Mudra Vigyan… mudras

Entirely distinct and based on the principle of Ayurveda yoga mudras are understood as a healing modality. The sanskrit word Mudra is translated as gesture or attitude. A mudra may involve the whole body or be a simple hand position. Mudras used in combination with yoga breathing exercises enliven the flow of prana in the body by stimulating the different parts of the body involved with breathing. Relating directly to the nerves mudras create a subtle connection with the instinctual patterns in the brain influencing the unconscious reflexes in these areas. The internal energy is in turn balanced and redirected effecting change in the sensory organs, glands veins and tendons.

This adds a whole new dimension to the yoga experience.

There are numerous different mudras, many mysterious and others contemporary in nature.

The main texts concerning the use of mudras are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 10 mudras and the Gheranda Samhita 25.

Some Yoga Mudras come natural to us, simply by touching our hands to our fingers we can affect our attitude and our perception and the inherent energetic power can heal the body.

There is a direct relationship between the mudras and the five elements of the body.

According to Ayurveda disease is due to an imbalance in the body caused by lack or excess of any of the five elements, our fingers have the characteristics of these elements and each of these five elements serves a specific and important function within the body. The fingers are essentially electrical circuits. The use of mudras adjusts the flow of energy affecting the balance of air, fire, water earth and ether accommodating healing.

There are many interpretations of the various finger positions, whether they are represented as aspects of the self, the three energies inherent in the gunas, the mind, intellect, ego, illusion or karma remains mystery. The main point being that they introduce a non intellectual sensibility.