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Pranayama means “Control of Breath”. “Prana” in Sanskrit literally means breath or vital energy in the body; while “yama” means control. So Pranayama is “Control of Breath”.
There are a variety of ways to utilize the breath:
- to calm the nervous system
- to strengthen the energetic body, and to aid in meditation
Pranayama, meaning control or participation with prana (Life Force), creates stillness in the inner body. Like a pond without the slightest ripple, reflection becomes clearer and more focused.
Pranayama is not simply “breath control.” Breath is one thing which we have some voluntary control over. However, we have no access initially to control other bodily functions, such as the function of organs like the heart. These functions are autonomic.
By subtle manipulation of the breath, noticing its pattern, and paying attention to the spaces between breaths, we can begin to notice the movement of prana, the Life Force itself. This is the proper goal of Pranayama, not increasing lung capacity or holding the breath for a long duration.