Five minutes of pranayama is enough for all-round wellbeing, writes yoga teacher CARRMINE IREENE
Breathing is the most important biological function. On an average, a person takes 15 breaths per minute, making it 900 breaths in an hour and 21,600 breaths in 24 hours. In every conscious breath, we touch the higher power of the Self to reach the sheath of the soul.
Way To The Soul
Yogic breathing consists of four parts - pooraka or inhalation, abhyantara kumbhaka or retention of the inhaled breath, rechaka or disciplined complete exhalation and bhayakumbhaka or retention after exhalation.
In pranayama, the sadhaka uses the body as a sacrificial altar. Inhalation is like pouring ghee on the altar, exhalation is the flame blazing out from the yajnakunda.
Retention is in the form of mantra, an offering so that the Self merges and dissolves in the Universal Soul or Paramatma.
Below the navel is a great nerve centre which stores the extra prana and this is the hawankhunda of the body where incineration takes place.
When you breathe through the left nostril you are awakening the human consciousness and breath drawn in through the right nostril awakens divine consciousness. When the breath is held either inside or outside the body it embraces shakti to enlighten the mind and attain spiritual bliss.
As you ascend in inhalation the sound resembles 'so' and in descending exhalation, the sound resembles 'hum'. This is the 'sohum mantra' that we repeat unknowingly throughout life. To be aware of this mantra and the breath that we keep taking is the first step towards pranayama that takes us to the soul's doorstep.
The Divine Path
With every passing thought, our energy gets consumed, depleting our prana and creating ambush on our path. Breath is the messenger of the body. Every action of life comes from kama or desire that is creative energy which leads us to moha or attachment. If kama is not handled well, it can turn to madha or arrogance and krodha or anger. The highest and purest form of desire is karuna or compassion. When you inhale and hold the breath within your body, compassion is awakened and there is a renewal and reversal of arrogance. Greed is destructive and gives rise to ahamkara or ego which paves the path of insecurity and jealousy and nibbles prana away. As you start inhaling through the opposite nostril, the manipulative ego gets anchored with the Self and there is no room for greed and undesirable emotions. The belly is the meeting point of matter and soul and bhayakumbhaka is its apex.
In part one, you inhale through your right nostril, blocking the left nostril with the little finger of your right hand. In part two, you hold the breath inside the body, closing the right nostril with the thumb. In part three, you exhale through the left nostril, releasing the little finger while the right nostril is closed. In part four, you hold the breath outside after a complete exhalation. Repeat the round by inhaling now through the left nostril in part one and proceed to complete the cycle as before.
Benefits Of Pranayama
1. Pranayama frees the mind from any clutter that is obstructing soul growth
2. Helps memory and concentration and improves focus and balance
3. Tackles the problem of insomnia and anger, bringing peace and calm
4. Improves the health of the heart, lungs, brain and the digestive system
5. Corrects the metabolic rate to overcome obesity and helps in weightloss
6. Builds up immunity and helps you fight infections and diseases
7. Purifies the aura and alleviates energy loss
Five to 15 minutes of pranayama can bring about a dramatic change in your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.