By Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi
Excerpts of the book : “Pranayam”
Chapter II : What is Pranayam?
Pranayam is actually two words. Pran (Soul) Ayan (measure). In Ayurved, Pran is the soul in the body and it is found where stomach meets chest. The centre of lowest chest. When we control Parn Vayu or go for the correction in the rhythm of Pran Vayu, the protocol is called as Pranayam. According to Shiv Puran, we have seven types of Vayu (air) which controls different activities of body. Pran Vayu is most important them all. It is believed that Pran remains in the body even after death for almost 24 hours. May be mythological beliefs remain in practice for reasons but we know for sure that respiratory system actually supply much needed oxygen to body, blood and brain.
To enhance the efficiency of respiratory system, Pranayam or Protocol of Respiratory system needs to be performed and to sustain the efficiency, prolonged practice of Pranayam is required. We call in Sanskrit as “Prayaname Vinyogah”. Application of Pranayam is Vinyogah.
Let us understand and take some clue from nature and animals. Dog often breathe like extinguisher and bulls often sneeze to clear its respiratory system. We have seen frogs go in hibernation. Now let us analyze these.
What is Samadhi? Hibernation is nothing but Samadhi. In this, brains though sleeps but gives signal to respiratory system to keep on breathing. The body keep itself alive in hibernation. Yog Nidra is short Samadhi. With Dhyan, Yogi achcive the stage of Yog Nidra or Meditating, advancement of Dhyan is Samadhi.
What is Dhyan? Dhyan is meditation as the Flamingo do. In this process a very controlled breathing is required and the body does not move for a micro mile centimetre. When big cats charge its target, the breathe takes centre stage for success. A horse has a very unique respiratory system. For a long period of racing we require a very strong pair of lungs. A marathon runner apes a horse system and needs a continuous rhythm without tiring. The system repair itself within and continuously. Plants breathe in a systematic way. The pollination and breeding have a very special protocol. Why we do not breathe carbon and release oxygen like plants? And why plants do not intake helium? Hence defying nature and going against the protocol will lead to damages and it may be permanent.
Pranayam need to be understood in total and half knowledge of Pranayam will give you adverse results or no result at all.
Before starting Pranayam, let us test strength of your respiratory level. Take soft cotton and keep on your nostrils. Breathe slowly for half minute so that the cotton should not move. If does not have momentum and you successfully breathed for half minute then you are ready for Pranayam. You need calm and compose gesture and try to ease your breath if you are not able to control the cotton on your nose.
Our both nostrils work at a time. If left working and breathing, we call it Chandra and Surya for right nostril breathing. This you can check yourself also. Just put your finger on your nostril and see which one is in action. Yog says that Chandra work in night or when you are not fit and Surya chakra in day time. Reverse does not mean you are ill. It is when you want to practice Pranayam, it matters.
Mountaineers and people who live in high altitudes need very good respiratory system. When air is thin and oxygen level in air is below normal, a good practice of Pranayam works. In fact people living on high altitude do practice Pranayam in their daily lives. Controlling breath when they are climbing and even when they are working.
Pranayam is just not confined to increasing immunity system through controlled breath but also it gives immense strength to thoughts, character and presence of mind in various situations. The person who practices it is not only improving his/ her health but also enhancing capabilities to take pressure of daily modern life. Coping with stress level is biggest challenge in modern societies. One needs good controlled thoughts, able to analyse various options in life for research and development.
A research is an answer to questions raised during the thought process and practical difficulties faced by a human. This is fundamental truth that with Pranayam, we enhance level of Oxygen in our lungs which leads to normal flow of blood in our body and at the same time purify it for proper functioning of our organs.
In Vedas, Pranayam is having very important place. The Vedas have identified the Pranayam as one of the best human practice and have described it in many ways.
Atharv Ved identified Pranayam as “Mool Chetana”, an important consciousness.
प्राणो विराट प्राणो देस्त्रो ।
प्राण सर्व उपासते ।
प्राणोह सूर्य चन्द्रमा
प्रणमाहु प्रजापतिम ।।
Means, Pran is big, inspiring. Therefore, everyone practice Pranayam to worship the GOD. Pran is Sun, and Moon and Bramha ( Prajapati) the creator of universe. Pran is the driver for all physical energy.
In another sect/ verse, the Pran is defined as:
सहस्त्र रश्मि शतधा वर्त्तमान : ।
प्राण : प्रजानमरुदयेष सूर्य :। ।
Means the sun which is creator of souls and one who ride hundreds of horses is Pran. Pran is Sun.
In Brahdarandya Upnishad , Pran is defined as :
प्राणो वै बलम । प्राणो वै अमृतं ।
आ युर्न : प्राण :। राजा वै प्राण : ।।
Means, Pran is force, Pran is Amrut (divine liquid for longer life) Pran is age and life. Pran is king who rules the earth. In this context, it is written that Pran is Age. This concept is very important as it is seen as Pranayam not only give a longer life but also gives person self determination of death. For example in Mahabharat Bhism got power of self death determination.
Manusmriti, one of the most read and proven ancient Hindu verse said in its verse 6/71/72 “ just like materials get refined after they are heated, Pranayam purify organs of the body.”
In Vishnu Puran (6|7|40-45) Pranayam is defined as : “ Controlling the breathe through practice is Pranayam”. There are two type of Pranayam as per Vishnu Puran – Sabeej and Nirbeej. Pranayam controls Vayu and Pratyahaar (diet) controls Organs. Both purify the body for better Yogic exercise.
Geeta (4|29) have given Pranayam the status of “Yagya”. By practising Pranayam, Yogi do yagya or pran to apaan and vies versa. Geeta (4|30|31) further elaborate Pranayam the way to find the almighty God.
Maharshi Patanjli in Yog Darshan (2|46) defined the Pranayam as “Controlling breathe while seated on an asan is Pranayam. This is simplest definition on Pranayam given, which can be understood by common men. The definition gives foundation to understand more complex and advance stages of Pranayam.
To know your body, its biological clock, its behaviour to certain atmosphere, practice of Pranayam is must. People staying in extreme weathers like in minus degree of cold and when they travel to hot places where the temperature is above 40 degree C or where humidity is more than 80, perforations and sweats reduces their body performance. Say, a sports person of cold weather may not perform in hot weather. Olympics are conducted in every part of this earth. Nations have different climatic conditions. Every sport has its own temperature biometrics. Performing to the best of body ability is every sport persons’ dream. When given climatic conditions are not suitable, performance decreases. Pranayam is the answer where body remembers the exercise.
Pranayam is a yogic kriya/ exercise. It’s a process of controlling breathe in a systematic way for various reasons with different types. Pranayam was discovered in Vedic era in ancient India and was confined to only Saints and Rishi munis, Yogies and Brahmans. Practice of Yog and after United Nations have adopted the Yog and its process, the science of Yog is now spreading in the world where people are getting immense benefit from naturopathy and strength within.
Pranayam with meditation is also called “Yog Nidra”. Often in corporate world, a small nap is called for to rejuvenate the thoughts and body, clear stress and give boost to biological energy. Recently, a Multination company adopted the practice and kept a separate enclosure for small nap. The result was mind blowing when efficiency level of employees were seen to be very high and creative. A small breathe exercise along with small nap or meditation have shown miracle in human body. We knew the deep breathing gives relaxation and relief from anxiety, nervousness’ and lack of concentration. The practice of Pranayam over comes all such illness and give a rock solid mind with healthy body balance.
Have you ever heard sound of your blood flowing in your body? Or felt the heart beats in your chest? A simple exercise of putting both your index figures in your ears and just listen the sound of flow of blood. Any living creature on this earth needs oxygen to live. The lungs full of oxygen rejuvenate the vital organs and blood carries the energy to different part of the body. What is the driving force which makes the heart beats in a systematic rhythm beats? A specific interval between two beats of heart where the heart takes a little rest and bounce back is just not a usual organic function. A very complex mechanism of respiratory system of human body needs a simple solution to enhance its efficiency. The air goes in lungs carry many gases and particles. Gases which human require functioning his/ her organs. For all human activities, regular systematic functions of organs are must. Yog have given a different perspective of life where many types of physical exercise were discovered but a scientifically proven exercise discovered by ancient civilisation just like Indian science for Universe and calculations for stars.
Modern science believes in experimental results. All which is logically proven is believed to be science. The exercise differs from human to human. If a boxer or athlete work out and exercise in observed professional manner, he will give an enhanced result. Similarly, a human body exercise all depend on the person conducting it on his/ her body.
Every human body is having its own biological clock. The capacity for tolerance of atmosphere differs from person to person. A person in Middle East may tolerate 50 degree centigrade heat where as he may not be comfortable at -3 degree cold at Northern hemisphere countries. Hence the intensity and nature of exercise differs from place to place and person to person.
The food habit also gives a great deal of impact on Yogic Exercises. Vegetarians and Vegans are having great advantage over non vegetarian food. One of the yogic Kriyas is for cleaning system, body Mals/ sweats/ excreta through different out lets of body. Food habits give added advantage to Yogi while performing the Yog specifically “Astang Yog”
Purifying system, especially respiratory system, Digestive system and purifying blood through various Yogic Kriyas and Asans can be achieved with normal practise of Yog. In Yog, we have very specific instructions to pregnant women. Now, all the instructions given to her to give a best purified DNA and jeans to the child coming in the world. Besides healthy food, When a pregnant women exercise Pranayam , it gives a great respiratory system to the child born. Not only good respiratory system but strong lungs and heart are guaranteed. The ancient science of Indian Yogic exercise gives path to life science the ancestors were practicing. Where there was no modern medical science existed but Yog and Ayurveda was practised.
It is for sure that a better controlled breathe through Pranayam gives desired results to enhance body performance, it also have great impact on mind and thoughts. A positive mind becomes creative mind. This is important; to be creative one has to be sound mind with wisdom.
Physical exercise requires energy and power. It also then requires enough in take to keep the balance of the body fluids. But Pranayam on the other hand can be practised even by lying down without any efforts. It enhanced the level of oxygen in organs, make the body young and do not allow it to tired faster due to aging. It gives enough strength to brain to function faster than average. No doubt, Pranayam not making the body stronger as we gain due to physical exercise, but it enhances immunity system, respiratory system, digestive system, blood control and great brains.
Pranayam along with Surya Namaskar gives great results and is strongly recommended in Yog. Surya Namaskar is one of the best light exercises for body along with Pranayam.