Pranayama – A New Lifestyle
Lifestyle has a profound impact on the pranamaya kosha and its pranas. Physical activities such as exercise, work, sleep, intake of food and sexual relations, all affect the distribution and flow of prana in the body. Faculties of the mind such as emotion, thought and imagination affect the pranic body even more. Irregularities in lifestyle, dietary indiscretions and stress, deplete and obstruct the pranic flow. Depletion of energy in a particular prana leads to the de vitalisation of the organs and limbs it governs and ultimately to disease or metabolic dysfunction. The techniques of pranayama reverse this process, energising and balancing the different pranas within the pranamaya kosha.
The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain. Most people breathe incorrectly, using only a small part of their lung capacity. The breathing is then generally shallow, depriving the body of oxygen and prana essential to its good health. Practitioners develop sensitivity to the respiratory process and retrain the muscles of the pulmonary cavity, enhancing their vital capacity and preparing them for pranayama.
Rhythmic, deep and slow respiration stimulates and is stimulated by calm content states of mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical emotional and mental blocks. These, in turn, lead to inner conflict, imbalanced personality, disordered lifestyle and disease. Although breathing is mainly an unconscious process, conscious control of it may be taken at any time. Consequently, it forms a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind. Through the practice of pranayama, the energy trapped in neurotic, unconscious mental patterns may be released for use in more creative and joyful activity.
Breathing and life span
In addition to influencing the quality of life, the length or quantity of life is also dictated by the rhythm of the respiration. The ancient yogis and rishis studied nature in great detail. They noticed that animals with a slow breath rate such as pythons, elephants and tortoise have long life spans, whereas those with a fast breathing rate, such as birds, dogs and rabbits, live for only a few years. From this observation they realised the importance of slow breathing for increasing the human lifespan. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger and better nourished and contributes to a longer life. Deep breathing also increases the absorption of energy by the pranamaya kosha, enhancing dynamism, vitality and general well-being.