Pranayama is the regulation and prolongation of breath. Prana is equated with breath, life force (vital energy), cosmic energy; etc. and Ayama signifies length, abstinence and regulation. In Patanjli's words, after obtaining the steadiness of Asana, controlling the act of respiration is know as Pranayama. There are three main functions of pranayama --- inhalation, exhaling, exhalation and retention. If the breathing is regulated, the mind becomes steady, tranquil, and peaceful .

 Fundamental Functions of Pranayama

      Inhalation (purak) enlarges the chest cavity. Fills the lungs with air, and moves the diaphragm downwards. Retention (kumbhak) distributes the energy throughout the body to every cell, muscle and nerve. Retention increases the level of corbon-dioxide in the blood, increasing internal temperature. As a result, metabolism is assisted and increased oxygen absorption tones up body tissue. Exhalation (rechak) throws away all the toxins, impurities and poisons from the blood due to contraction of the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm.

      Beginners should breathe on a ratio of 5:5:5, which means they should inhale for five seconds, retain for five seconds, and exhale for five seconds. With practice, they should eventually reach a ratio of 5:20:10; five seconds for inhalation, twenty seconds for retention and ten seconds for exhalation. While practicing Pranayama, a person can simultaneously practice bandhas; after breathing in, let the chin drop ti touch the throat cavity (jalandhar bandha) and pull the anus upwards (mool bandha). Before breathing out, first relax the jalandhar bandha, then the mool bandha and perform uddiyan bandha (contracting the abdominal muscles) while exhaling completely.

Benefits of Pranayama

Requirements of Practicing Pranayama