PRAANAAYAM
April 13, 2004
Des Plaines Mandira

Praanaayam is the fourth stage in ashtaanga-yoga (and traditionally considered a part of hatha-yoga). Lord Krishna references praanaayam in Bhagavad Gita 4/29; and Patanjali references pranaayam in his Yoga-sutras (from section 2, verse 49). Praanaayam is made up of the words praana (vital-force - though one ingredient is oxygen, it can be described as one's josha or zeal) and aayam (control). To control the praana, praanaayam consists of 4 basic steps: puraka (process of inhaling), kumbhaka (holding inhaled air), rechaka (process of exhaling), and bahya-kumbhaka (stopping the intake of air after exhaling). These basic 4 steps are combined in varying combinations - e.g. changing the duration of each step in multiples of two: puraka for 2 seconds, kumbhaka for 4 seconds, rechaka for 8 seconds, and bahya-kumbaka for 16 seconds. Alternatively, breath can be inhaled and/or exhaled through the left nostril, right nostril, mouth, and/or forcefully and repeatedly inhaled and exhaled. Through these exercises, one gradually gains control of the praana, which results in improved health, increased vitality, and improvement of concentration (to help on the spiritual path). The word praanotthaan means to awaken the praana - i.e. to put the vital force in all of the body - resulting in an intense or supernatural state.

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