Pranayama involves the control of breathing through several techniques. It literally means “energy control”. It is a type of meditation method with various ways to control the breath.
The main objective is to withdraw the other senses from the outside world with this concentration. This is the forth step of yoga sadhana after asana and before pratyhara (withdrawal of senses) in the yoga sutra. The control of mind through breath is an essential practice that internalize our focus and maximize the oxygen intake into our body and direct it accordingly within.
It makes our body light and enable to regulate and control the subtle force within our body. From here, we can control our mind with concentration, which is the main benefit of pranayama.
The focus is on the space entering the body, the timing/ speed of the inhalation and exhalation (slow / fast), and the counts of inhale and exhale (short /long).
Pranayama purify the energy channels (nadis) in our body. There are 3 main nadis along the spine, ida on the left, pingala the right and shushumna at the center. Our aim is to balance them in the center of shushumna. When the level of energy in shushumna reaches to the top of the spine, it goes to the sixth chakra or spiritual eye and one becomes enlightened.
When we are calm or asleep, the left nostril is dominant which is the moon element. As we are active and alert, the right side of the nostril is more dominant which is the sun element. We always try to attempt to balance the ida and pingala in order to activate the shushumna.
Pranayama allows us to hold, move and expand Prana in different region of our body. It uses breath as a tool to play with prana. Prana is the great energy that appear inside and outside of our body. Pranayama gives control to this energy by inhaling the atmosphere prana and exhaling inner prana. We can direct the awareness to different part of our body. It is the foundation of internal cleansing practices in the 8 limb of yoga.
The types of pranayama methods includes yogic breathing(clavicular, thoracic and abdominal), ujjayi breathing which is the psychic breath, bhastrika pranayama (bellow’s breath) the yogic breath of fire with active inhalation and active exhalation, kapalabakti (frontal brain cleansing technique) which is passive inhalation and active exhalation ,and nadi sodhana breathing.