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Pranayama - Control of Vital Life Force Energy

In order to really understand what pranayama is, I think it's important to start by looking at the etymology, or origin, of the word. Prana is generally translated to mean: • Vital life force • Energy • Life • Breath • Wind • Strength • "That which is infinitely everywhere." Yama, as stated in previous emails, is generally translated to mean: • Restraint • Control • Expansion • Extend • Stretch

Pranayama is the control of vital life force energy. Vital life force energy, prana, is something all living beings have. Prana is a never ending stream of vitality that flows from inside of us, fills us, and keeps us alive. In some ancient texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Yajnavalkya say that when there is prana outside of the body it is because we have blockages inside the body preventing prana from permeating in the body where it should be, forcing the vital life force energy out. This can lead to feeling restless, confused, listless, and unwell. It can lead to dis-ease in the body. In the book The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar says, "The more peaceful and well balanced we are, the less our prana is dispersed outside the body. And if all the prana is within the body, we are free of these [as mentioned above] symptoms."

Ujjayi Pranayama - Ujjayi, or victorious, breath is probably the most common pranayama used in yoga asana classes. It has a warming effect in the physical body. It activates the vagus nerve which is at the core of the parasympathetic nervous systems. This means it helps you to calm your mind and help you feel safe. Dirgha Pranayama - Dirgha Pranayama, or three part breath, is the perfect breath to prepare the body and mind for meditation. It slows the heart rate, lowers stress hormones, and relaxes tension in the body. Again, this pranayama activates the vagus nerve to help shift you out of fight or flight and into a state of safety and calm. Nadi Shodhana - This pranayama is one that is used often in Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. This technique helps you to find balance in the physical body (left and right, lunar and solar, light and dark), as well as cultivate balance in the mind. Kapalabhati Pranayama - Kapalabhati means "skull shining." This is an energizing breath practice that helps clears the lungs, the nasal passages, and the mind. It can also improve circulation. Sama Vritti Pranayama - Box breathing is one of my absolute favorites. Studies show it can help lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Again, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to help shift you into a place of calm. The Cleveland Clinic even wrote an article about it.

B. K. S. Iyengar says in his book Light on Yoga, "The yogi's life is not measured by the number of days, but by the number of breaths." When you slow down your breath, you slow down your life. This helps you to stay grounded and find presence! Thank you, as always, for reading, for growing with me and for being part of this community! We couldn't do it without all of you! Kiara Flowers

REFERENCES: Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant The Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi Yoga Toolbox - Joseph and Lilian LePage

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