Pranayama: Yogic Breathing
Pranayamai is the knowledge and control of prana, or vital energy. The grossest manifestation of this energy in humans is the motion of the lungs, and the most subtle is our thoughts. Thus, by controlling prana, the Yogi can control the physical body and the mind. By practicing pranayama, a practice of Hatha Yogai, purity of mind and body is achieved, allowing the mind to become one-pointed. To fully understand prana, it is essential to have the insight of a teacher.
The practice of pranayama begins by controlling the breath, and in more advance students, by controlling the thoughts themselves. To fully control the breath, one must focus in the exhalation to aid in relaxation. In our daily lives, we often neglect proper exhalation, essential to deeper inhalation, and thus we tend to sigh a lot.
Automatic and unconscious breathing is not enough to face the challenges of our modern society. One of the most important benefits from becoming aware of the breath is that one also develops a greater awareness of the body. This brings about consciousness about the posture and immense health benefits, as well as increased resistance to stress and bodily tension.
The two basic breathing exercises are Kapalabhati, which consists of forced abdominal exhalations and Anuloma Viloma which consists of alternating the flow of air through both nostrils. These should be carried out on a daily basis.