We normally believe that only human and other forms of living beings as well as plants do contain or consume life-force that keeps us alive. This is only partially true: Life-force – our ancient scientists say – is present all over space. They called it “Prana” and it is carried through the medium of “Vayu” or wind, and hence the term “Prana Vayu” came to into vogue.
This “Prana” or life-force could be directly absorbed into our system through “Vayu”, and the specific technique of such an intake of life-force was called as “Pranayama” or what is generally termed as “breathing exercises”.
Pranayama is an integral part of the three-fold, drugless remedy for most of our illnesses, physical, mental and spiritual. The importance of this breathing exercise can be realised from the startling fact, that more than ten thousand litres of air go in and out of our nostrils everyday through normal breathing. The difference between health and illness is the quality and quantity of life-force, that we consume, and the way it is done.
Normally we breathe for about seven thousand and two hundred times per day, and this varies due to emotions and tensions. Deep-breathing exercises reduce the number of breaths and brings down the metabolic rate, producing a calmness and peace of mind. It is an interesting fact that breath control results in mind control also.
Our lungs are formed to accommodate a total volume of about six litres of air at a time, but in normal breathing we only take about two litres of air, leading to an undernourishment of limbs. Through Pranayama we are able to cure this deficiency of air intake.
Deep-breathing exercises could be started under the guidance of a master from the age of ten, for short periods. The exercises could be done once a day, between ten and twenty minutes. But students who desire to achieve yogic powers could do them for few hours a day. Always seek a teacher, who is not boastful or abusive while teaching and does not run after cheap popularity or money.
All of us need and desire peace of mind, but events drive us crazy. Drugs, consumed to reduce tension, create more problems and prod us to take more medicines.
One sure way – and the least expensive one – to escape from this vicious circle. is to start learning Pranayama or breathing, from a truly qualified teacher, and this also forms an integral part of the “Art of Living”.
Excerpts from Acharya Ratnananda