Q: What is pranayama and is it a good yoga exercise?
P. Godfrey – Newcastle
A: Pranayama forms an important part of yoga practise and generally refers to breathing exercises. In its simplest form, ‘prana’ means ‘life force’ and ‘yama’ means ‘to regulate’ or ‘to control’. Therefore, pranayama, in this context, means to regulate breath or breathing.
Such practice, if performed regularly, will significantly improve your health and wellbeing. Too often we take our breathing for granted.
Yoga Pranayama exercises are not just meant for physical improvement of health. They also serve to achieve other objectives including purification, cleansing, attaining higher states of awareness and to regulate, navigate and work with the pranas (vital airs) in the body. They also help navigate the kundalini shakti (inner energy). These are just some of the underlying functions of pranayama.
There are three basic components of pranayama. These are: puraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation) and kumbhaka (retention of breath).