Working With Life Force
4th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the name Pranayama is composed of two Sanskrit words; Prana, meaning Life Force and Ayama meaning extend or control. This practice works the breath and life force movement in our system.
My education so far has been mostly with Dr. Naina Marballi, Dr. Vasat Lad, along with some time during my 200hr YTT
In India, where the Yoga tradition stems from, when somebody transitions from this existence, it's said that they have expired: Respiration; Inspiration; Expiration: The breath goes in, the breath leaves. Breath is life.
There are 5 types of Prana in our system. Pranayama exercises, sometimes in collaboration with Mudra and Mantra, and even with Asana (poses), work with different elements and aspects of these channels and with the ways that they relate with the overall system.
While relatively simple, the approach through the breath is a wonderfully powerful therapy for the body, mind, and spirit. I sincerely and highly recommend it.
Pranayama can be taken quite lightly. I have too often seen it instructed and/or prescribed that way. It is a very serious practice with quite strong impacts on the body. Like anything a strong impact can be absolutely wonderful, IF it is the right one for the practitioner. That said, there are contraindications to quite a few of the most popular kinds and I advise you to always take great caution and care when taking the word of anyone about such things, even in a random Yoga class. Ask if there are contraindications if you're concerned, or even just curious. The answer, or lack thereof, will tell you all you need to know.
Some people only get 5-10 hrs of information on Pranyayam within a teacher training and not all are focused on the medical implications (I was lucky mine was). Then there are others have only learned the spiritual side, and are not aware, or at times concerned, with effects when it comes to the physical manifestation of those energies. As with all things, take care.
This tradition has been passed down for 1,000's of years because it works. - Wonders. I have looked at TCM and Sowa Rigpa along with Ayurveda. In all three, the lungs are known as the emotional storehouse for grief. And those with phlegm are said to have uncried tears. Different emotions are stored in various areas of the body and, as they each address different system ingredients in different ways, Pranayama can help to give flow to the Prana in those areas to help us to let go and release any of that stuff that could be contributing to stagnation and other incarnations of dis-ease. Emotional releases, along with mental and physical improvements, are always a joy to witness.
And, as Dr. Lad says, nobody can see your breath; you can practice certain Pranayam very comfortably in public with nobody able to see what you are doing. SO it's a lovely trick to have in your back pcket at any time you feel you need to restores yourself back into balance.
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