Traditionally, the ultimate aim of some Yogic practices was to direct Prāṇa into the suṣumnā nadi specifically, enabling Kuṇḍalini to rise, and thus bring about Mokṣa.
There are two energetic nerve channels (nāḍis) on either side of the spine – Iḍā and Piṅgala. The Prāṇa flows upwards through the iḍā, and with this upward movement, the breath is automatically drawn into the lungs. The result is that the mind is lured towards the gross world of senses. The energy flows downwards through the Piṅgala, which is called apāna. With this downward movement, there is exhalation of the breath, signifying a rejection of the external world. The continuous cycle of happiness and dejection is embedded within the subtle channels. Through Prāṇāyāma, one could redirect the energy though the central spine known as Suṣumnā nāḍi. When this energy in the Suṣumnā reaches the top of the spine and attains the 6th Chakra, one becomes enlightened.
One could say that as a by-product of Prāṇāyāma, the practitioner attains Siddhis – extraordinary powers. However, sometimes the attainment of Siddhis could be distracting to the pursuit of the ultimate goal of liberation.
There are various physical benefits that Prāņāyāma brings about. The main ones include stress-reduction, improvement of sleep quality, reduction of high blood pressure, improvement of lung function, reduction of hypertension, etc. For instance, Ujjayī breathing improves concentration, promotes clarity and focus, enhances memory and bolsters immune system. It removes disorders of the dhātu – the 7 constituents of the body: blood, bone, marrow, fat, semen, skin and flesh. Bhramarī prāṇāyāma relieves cerebral tension and alleviates throat problems. The Bhastrika Prāṇāyāma burns up toxins and removes imbalance in doṣas. Due to the rapid exchange of air in the lungs, there is an increase in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of the bloodstream. This stimulates metabolism, producing heat and flushing out toxins.
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