Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pranayama (Patananjali's 8 limbs of Yoga)


Pranayama - 4th Limb

The fourth of the eight rungs of Yoga is Pranayama, which is regulating the breath so as to make it slow and subtle , leading to the experience of the steady flow of energy (prana), which is beyond or underneath exhalation, inhalation, and the transitions between them

Posture is the prerequisite: To successfully practice and attain the full benefits of breath control and pranayama, it is necessary that it be built on the solid foundation of a steady and comfortable sitting posture . Pranayama is preparation for concentration: Through these practices and processes of pranayama the mind acquires or develops the fitness, qualification, or capability for concentration (dharana), which is the sixth limb

Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and is the fourth of the eight rungs.
(tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh gati vichchhedah pranayamah)

That pranayama has three aspects of external or outward flow (exhalation), internal or inward flow (inhalation), and the third, which is the absence of both during the transition between them, and is known as fixedness, retention, or suspension. These are regulated by place, time, and number, with breath becoming slow and subtle.
(bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desha kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah dirgha sukshmah)

Three aspects of breath and prana are trained when doing any of the specific breathing practices:

1)Exhalation: Training the exhalation is removing the jerkiness, allowing the flow to be slow and deep, as well as diaphragmatic.

2)Inhalation: Training the exhalation also means eliminating jerkiness, breathing slowly, and using the diaphragm.

3)Transition: Between exhalation and inhalation, and between inhalation and exhalation there is a transition, which is experienced as suspension, retention, or cessation, etc. The training of the transition is to make it very smooth, as if there were no pause at all. Between exhalation and inhalation there is a transition when one is neither exhaling nor inhaling. Between inhalation and exhalation there is also a transition when one is neither inhaling nor exhaling.