Subtle changes take place in the body when we practice Pranayama.
Pranayama helps the mind to concentrate, and helps us to achieve both health & longevity. As we age, the respiratory function decreases. But by practicing Pranayama, we bring vitality to all the organs of the body, particularly the lungs, so we can slow down the ageing process and be healthier, longer.
Tantric texts say that the goal of Pranayama is to wake up the Shakti, or power, called kundalini. Kundalini is the divine cosmic energy in the body that lies at the base of the spine. As kundalini moves up the spine, through each of the 7 chakras, we begin to understand the oneness of all creation. We see beyond time and space and experience our divine connection with the universe. In this state we are ever-present – not thinking of regrets from the past or anticipations from the future – we are in a serene state of mind where only the “now” exists.
Here are some recommendations for how to best practice Pranayama:
- It is best to have been practicing yoga for a while and have mastered some of the postures, or asanas, before learning pranayama. This way you will understand better muscle control and your lungs will be more prepared for the practice of pranayama. It has been said that yoga brings discipline to the body and pranayama brings discipline to the mind. It is best to practice yoga and pranayama at separate times of the day. Pranayama cannot be performed properly after strenuous exercise.
- Empty the bladder and bowels before you sit down to practice pranayama.
- Go slow and gently with your practice. Take one step at a time. Do not practice too hastily or too forcefully.
- Choose a fixed time and place for when and where you practice. Find a time where you can be quiet, away from distractions. Find a place that is clean and airy. The best time to practice is in the early morning, before sunrise if possible, when the body and brain are fresh. The next best time is after sunset, when the air is cool.
- Do not practice pranayama on a full stomach, or when you are hungry. Leave some time, about four hours or so, after you have eaten to begin your practice. Allow half an hour after pranayama to pass before eating a meal.
- Do not practice pranayama when you are angry, sick, or tired. Do not practice just before bedtime as it will keep you awake.
- Sit on a mat or blanket placed on the floor. Keep the spine straight. You can sit cross-legged, or on your shins, or with your feet together and your knees apart. Whatever position is most comfortable for you. If you have back trouble, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor.
- Yoga asanas are practiced with the eyes open. Pranayama is practiced with the eyes closed. With the eyes closed, look within and place your attention on the heart.
- When you complete your practice, rest for a while before resuming activity.