Indian Yog therapy, Pranayam holds a place of special significance.
Pranayam occupies second place in Hathyog while it constitutes
the fourth step of Patanjali's Ashtangyog. A serious student of
Yog is expected to start practice of Pranayam when he or she becomes
well versed in Yogsan, i.e., when a stage of asanjay is achieved
so that one can sit for hours together, steadily and comfortably.
word Pranayam is formed by two words i.e., 'prana' and 'ayam.'
'Pran' means life force, which provides energy to different organs
(including mind) and also controls many vital life processes,
like respiration and circulation of blood. 'Ayam,' on the other
hand, signifies the voluntary effort to control and direct this
pran. Breathing is one of the vital activities governed by pran.
This is the only pranic activity which the human beings can voluntarily
regulate. Secondly, the breathing system is linked with the nervous
system (base of the mental activity) on one hand and the mind
(consciousness) on the other. Yog has taken best advantage of
this situation, considering that the mind could be controlled
effectively with the voluntary regulation over breathing. This
is expected to manage the materialistic inclinations and instincts
of 'chitta' (super consciousness).
Pranayam essentially becomes a process by which the mind is controlled
by voluntary regulation of the breathing. Hence, Pranayam is a
voluntary and temporary pause in the movement of the breath. From
yogic point of view it is a path that connects one's physical
existence and the spiritual consciousness.
yog sutras by Patanjali states: 'Tasminsati shvasaprashvasayor
gativichchedah Pranayamh.' This quote narrates that the pause,
brought in the movement of inhalation and exhalation, is nothing
but Pranayam. Rishi Patanjali has explained four types of Pranayam
on the basis of the nature of the 'pause' (stambhavrutti) that
is a temporary suspension of breath.
types are :
after or at the end of the prolonged (deergha) and very slow
(manda) exhalation (prashwas).
Pause after or at the end of deep and prolonged inhalation
Pause is brought any time one wants to bring for a considerable
time. It may be somewhere in between the usual inhalation
or exhalation. This is a prolongation of a break in the breathing
The practitioner experiences pause at any time without his
voluntary efforts, after a long practice of above three types
per yogic literature, when breath is held after exhalation, it
is known as Bahya kumbhak; when the breathing is stopped after
inhalation, it is known as Abhyantar kumbhak while the fourth
type of pause as mentioned above which comes automatically after
a long practice of Pranayam, is known as Keval kumbhak. Effect
of each type of Pranayam is also different on the physical, mental
and on the spiritual levels.
to Patanjali, a slightest change brought in the normal speed of
breathing is Pranayam. Also systematically controlled and prolonged
inhalations and exhalations constitute Pranayam. Obviously to
do this a voluntary control is necessary. In normal breathing
also, there is a pause between inhalation and exhalation that
may be only for a few milliseconds. Therefore voluntary control
brought on any one of the three, i.e., inhalation, exhalation,
the pause, or on all three, will be called Pranayam.