The word ”pranayama” is often translated as ”expansion or elongation of life force” and it represents one of the main methods of classical hatha yoga. In this tradition of yoga, pranayama is maybe the most highly regarded tool to be used for creating a greater contact with the inner world and more subtle parts of us as human beings. Through regular pranayama we prepare the body and mind for further meditation practices.
For the yogi, practicing pranayama means working with a group of breathing and cleansing techniques that will enhance health and that also, according to yogic tradition, have a more subtle effect on the vital life force (known as prana) itself.
The work with the breath and specific breath related practices are possible to find in most spiritual traditions. Classical hatha yoga in particular has over hundreds, or even thousands of years gradually increased the understanding of the importance of the breath. This knowledge has been developed, through generations of practitioners but also more recently through scientific studies. For the experienced yogi it is almost treated as an art form.
To practice pranayama is to practice patience and to let things grow step by step over a long time. You are inviting the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the physical body down, to create space for observation of everything that is happening in the moment. You are also strengthening your breathing mechanism and keeping some of the most vital functions of the body healthy.
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