Pranayama

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Man practicing Prāṇāyāma

Prāṇāyāma is the Hatha yoga practice of breath control.

Etymology[edit]

Prāṇāyāma (Devanagari: प्राणायाम prāṇāyāma) is a Sanskrit compound. It is defined variously by different authors.

Macdonell gives the etymology as prana (prāṇa), breath, + āyāma and defines it as the suspension of breath.[1]

Monier-Williams defined Pranayama in terms of the elements of Kumbhaka.

Monier-Williams defines the compound prāṇāyāma as "of the three 'breath-exercises' performed during Saṃdhyā (See pūrak, rechak (English: retch or throw out), kumbhak".[2] This technical definition refers to a particular system of breath control with three processes as explained by Bhattacharyya: pūrak (to take the breath inside), kumbhak (to retain it), and rechak (to discharge it).[3] There are other processes of prāṇāyāma besides this three-step model.[3]

V. S. Apte's definition of āyāmaḥ derives it from ā + yām and provides several variant meanings for it when used in compounds. The first three meanings have to do with "length", "expansion, extension", and "stretching, extending", but in the specific case of use in the compound prāṇāyāma he defines āyāmaḥ as meaning "restrain, control, stopping".[4]

Ramamurti Mishra gives the definition:

Expansion of individual energy into cosmic energy is called prāṇāyāma (prāṇa, energy + ayām, expansion).[5]

Hinduism[edit]

Bhagavad Gītā[edit]

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[6]

According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to "trance induced by stopping all breathing", also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[7]

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali[edit]

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali[8]
Pada (Chapter) English meaning Sutras
Samadhi Pada On being absorbed in spirit
51
Sadhana Pada On being immersed in spirit
55
Vibhuti Pada On supernatural abilities and gifts
56
Kaivalya Pada On absolute freedom
34

Pranayama is the fourth "limb" of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[9][10] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[11] Patanjali does not fully elucidate the nature of prana, and the theory and practice of pranayama seem to have undergone significant development after him.[12] He presents pranayama as essentially an exercise that is preliminary to concentration, as do the earlier Buddhist texts.[12]

Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali's Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[13]

Hatha yoga[edit]

The Indian tradition of Hatha Yoga makes use of various pranayama techniques. The 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a key text of this tradition and includes various forms of pranayama such as Kumbhaka breath retention and various body locks (Bandha).[14] Other forms of pranayama breathing include Ujjayi breath ("Victorious Breath"), Bhastrika ("Bellows Breath"), Kapalabhati ("Skull-shining Breath", a Shatkarma purification),[15] Surya Bhedana ("Sun-piercing Breath"),[16] and the soothing Bhramari (buzzing like a bee).[17] B. K. S. Iyengar cautions that pranayama should only be undertaken when one has a firmly established yoga practice and then only under the guidance of an experienced Guru.[13]

According to the scholar-practitioner of yoga Theos Bernard, the ultimate aim of pranayama is the suspension of breathing (kevala kumbhaka), "causing the mind to swoon".[18] Swami Yogananda writes, "The real meaning of Pranayama, according to Patanjali, the founder of Yoga philosophy, is the gradual cessation of breathing, the discontinuance of inhalation and exhalation".[19]

Yoga as exercise[edit]

The yoga scholar Andrea Jain states that pranayama was "marginal to the most widely cited sources" before the 20th century, and that the breathing practices were "dramatically" unlike the modern ones; she writes that while pranayama in modern yoga as exercise consists of synchronising the breath with movements (between asanas), in texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pranayama meant "complete cessation of breathing", for which she cites Bronkhorst 2007.[20][21]

Buddhism[edit]

According to the Pali Buddhist Canon, the Buddha prior to his enlightenment practiced a meditative technique which involved pressing the palate with the tongue and forcibly attempting to restrain the breath. This is described as both extremely painful and not conducive to enlightenment.[22] According to the Buddhist scheme, breathing stops with the fourth jhana, though this is a side-effect of the technique and does not come about as the result of purposeful effort.[23]

The Buddha did incorporate moderate modulation of the length of breath as part of the preliminary tetrad in the Anapanasati Sutta. Its use there is preparation for concentration. According to commentarial literature, this is appropriate for beginners.[24]

Indo-Tibetan tradition[edit]

Later Indo-Tibetan developments in Buddhist pranayama which are similar to Hindu forms can be seen as early as the 11th century, in the Buddhist text titled the Amṛtasiddhi, which teaches three bandhas for kumbakha.[25]

Tibetan Buddhist breathing exercises such as the "nine breathings of purification" or the "Ninefold Expulsion of Stale Vital Energy" (rlung ro dgu shrugs), a form of alternate nostril breathing, commonly include visualizations.[26][27] In the Nyingma tradition of Dzogchen these practices are collected in the textual cycle known as "The Oral Transmission of Vairotsana" (Vai ro snyan brgyud).[28]

Medical[edit]

Benefits[edit]

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] A Cochrane systematic review on the symptomatic relief of asthma by breathing exercises did not find a statistically significant improvement but did find that there was a statistically significant increase in the dose of histamine needed to provoke a 20% reduction in FEV1 (PD20) during pranayama breathing but not with the placebo device.[30]

Risks[edit]

Although relatively safe, Hatha Yoga is not risk free. Beginners should avoid advanced moves and exercise within their capabilities. Functional limitations should be taken into consideration. Modifications can then be made using props, altering the duration or poses.[31]

According to at least one study, pranayama was the yoga practice leading to most injuries, with four injuries in a study of 76 practitioners. There have been limited reports of adverse effects including haematoma and pneumothorax, though the connections are not always well established.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Macdonell, p.185, main entry prāṇāghāta
  2. ^ Monier-Williams, p. 706, left column.
  3. ^ a b Bhattacharyya, p. 429.
  4. ^ See main article आयामः (āyāmaḥ) in: Apte, p. 224. Passages cited by Apte for this usage are Bhagavatgita 4.29 and Manusmriti 2.83.
  5. ^ Mishra, p. 216.
  6. ^ Gambhirananda, pp. 217–218.
  7. ^ "Bhagavad-gītā 4.29 — ISKCON Press".
  8. ^ Stiles 2001, p. x.
  9. ^ Taimni 1961, p. 205.
  10. ^ Flood 1996, p. 97.
  11. ^ Taimni 1961, pp. 258–268.
  12. ^ a b G. C. Pande, Foundations of Indian Culture: Spiritual Vision and Symbolic Forms in Ancient India. Second edition published by Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1990, p. 97.
  13. ^ a b Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (2011). Light on prāṇāyāma : the yogic art of breathing. New York: Crossroad. OCLC 809217248.
  14. ^ James Mallinson (2011). Knut A. Jacobsen; et al., eds. Haṭha Yoga in the Brill Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 3. Brill Academic. pp. 772-773. ISBN 978-90-04-27128-9.
  15. ^ Budilovsky, Joan; Adamson, Eve (2000). The complete idiot's guide to yoga (2 ed.). Penguin. Chapter 7. ISBN 978-0-02-863970-3.
  16. ^ "Surya Bhedana Pranayama". Yogapedia. Retrieved 3 June 2019. In its simplest form, surya bhedana pranayama is inhaling fully through the right nostril, holding the breath and then exhaling through the left nostril. ... The pingala nadi, which represents masculine sun energy, begins in the muladhara (root) chakra and ends at the right nostril, which serves as a sort of entrance to this sun energy. By practicing surya bhedana pranayama, the yogi taps into and activates the pingala nadi energy
  17. ^ Brahinsky, Rachel (12 April 2017). "Use "Bee Breath" to Get Anxiety to Buzz Off". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  18. ^ Bernard, Theos (2007). Hatha Yoga: The Report of A Personal Experience. Harmony. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-9552412-2-2. OCLC 230987898.
  19. ^ Yogananda, Paramahansa (2005). The Essence of Kriya Yoga (1st ed.). Alight Publications. p. part10 (online). ISBN 978-1931833189.
  20. ^ Bronkhorst, Johannes (2007). Greater Maghada: Studies in the Culture of Early India. Brill. pp. 26–27.
  21. ^ Jain, Andrea (2015). Selling Yoga : from Counterculture to Pop culture. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-19-939024-3. OCLC 878953765.
  22. ^ Johannes Bronkhorst, The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India. Franz Steiner Verlag Weisbaden GmbH, pp. 1–5.
  23. ^ Johannes Bronkhorst, The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India. Franz Steiner Verlag Weisbaden GmbH, p. 84.
  24. ^ Edward Conze, Buddhist Meditation. Harper & Row, 1956, p. 66. Regarding the Buddha's incorporation of pranayama see also Buddhadasa, Mindfulness with Breathing. Revised edition published by Wisdom Publications, 1997, p. 53.
  25. ^ James Mallinson, The Amṛtasiddhi: Haṭhayoga's Tantric Buddhist Source Text, SOAS, University of London, 2016. pp. 1-3 with footnotes
  26. ^ Tenzin Wangyal. Awakening the Sacred Body, page 1
  27. ^ B. Alan Wallace. Tsalung Practice-Ninefold Expulsion of Stale Vital Energy (video). http://meridian-trust.org: Meridian Trust. Retrieved 2017-08-16.
  28. ^ Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Trans. by Adriano Clemente. Yantra Yoga Snow Lion Publications, p. 1.
  29. ^ Holland, Anne E.; Hill, Catherine J.; Jones, Alice Y.; McDonald, Christine F. (2012). "Breathing exercises for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10: CD008250. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008250.pub2. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 23076942.
  30. ^ Freitas DA,; Holloway. E. A.; Bruno, S. S.; Chaves, G. S.; Fregonezi, G. A.; Mendonça, K. P. (1 October 2013). "Breathing exercises for adults with asthma". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 10 (CD001277.pub3): CD001277. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001277.pub3. PMID 24085551.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  31. ^ a b Cramer, H.; Krucoff, C.; Dobos, G. (2013). "Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series". PLoS ONE (Systematic review). 8 (10): e75515. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075515. PMC 3797727. PMID 24146758.

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