Pranayama is the fourth limb which comes after yama, niyama and asanas according to Patanjali’s “Ashtanga Yoga”. It is believed to be one of the subtle part of the Yoga though most of the people are unaware of this. Most of the people focus their attention mainly on physical practices and attribute yoga as some form of physical exercises pertaining to body. This attitude towards yoga has to change and one should approach yoga for something far beyond physical health benefits though these are fulfilled as mere byproducts of practicing yoga. Initially when an aspirant joins any Yoga training institute or enrolls into a Yoga teacher training in India, in the beginning he puts his entire efforts into mastering the yoga postures i.e. practicing various asanas, after that he is slowly introduced to the basic parts of the pranayama techniques. Only when one is ready and equipped himself with the basic pranayama techniques, the aspirant is exposed to the advanced practices of pranayama and that too it should always be learnt and practiced under the expert guidance of a teacher.
Pranayama is generally termed as the controlling of the breath or control of the prana through breath, here prana is referred as the vital energy or the universal life force and ayama is termed as regulation or control of this vital force. So the term pranayama is the regulation of the breath thereby regulating the vital prana in our body. It is said that we have thousands of subtle energy channels called as ‘nadis’ and various energy centres called as ‘chakras’ and that this prana flows through these nadis and the energy centres called chakras. The way this prana flows through these nadis and chakras determines the state of those centers which in turn impacts the state of mind and also the overall well-being of an individual. Most of the time due to unhealthy habits and unorthodox ways of living and breathing, various blocks are formed in these nadis and obstruct the natural flow of prana through these nadis and chakras which leads into various kinds of diseases pertaining to those nadis and chakras. Pranayama is one of the effective technique and tool to get these blocks cleansed. Hence pranayama is considered the most vital integral part of the course of yoga teacher training in India. For that matter, apart from the course of yoga teacher training in India, any institute imparting the knowledge of yoga in India cannot teach yoga without including pranayama in its contents.
In a much deeper aspect, Pranayama is defined by a different connotation where prana is termed as the Life force which dwells inside every living being and leaves once the being dies and Ayama literally means expansion or enlarge, the cumulative of these two words gives rise to the meaning of extending the life force within each of us i.e., pranayama increases the vital life energy and enhances our life time.
There are different types of Pranayama like Quite breathing, Fast breathing, Deep breathing, Tribandha and pranayama, Nadhishuddhi Pranayama which are called as Anulom and viloma pranayama, Suyra bhedan Pranayama which involves right nostril breathing, Ujjayi pranayama, Bhramari Pranayama, murchha pranayama and others like bhastrika, Shitali and Sitkari. All these pranayama techniques can be learnt under the guidance of specialized faculty as a part of course content of yoga teacher training in India. Often it is observed that most of the aspirants gets too much immersed in the technicality of Pranayama while learning and also practicing it but one forgets the intricate and subtle aspects of Pranayama which are pivotal in achieving the main aim of Pranayama. Only when one focuses on the subtle nature of the practices alongside the deeper understanding of the techniques will lead one into experiencing the deeper aspects of spirituality.
Most people throng to yoga institutes and also the teacher training institute with only one aim in mind i.e., achieving physical health and having a better body shape and coming out of various chronic diseases, though all these are achieved through yoga asanas and pranayama but these are like mere byproducts of pranayama and yoga asanas. One must aim to achieve the higher aspects of yoga and pranayama like achieving liberation (moksha) which is the ultimate goal of Yoga.
It is always advisable that one learns Pranayama techniques specially the advanced pranayama techniques only under a well-trained and expert teacher and never practice it by reading a book or just listening to it as it involves the controlling and channelizing the vital prana and the subtle energies. So always approach a right training institute and a right trainer to learn the subtler elements of yoga and pranayama. Yoga teacher training in India is well facilitated with the necessary environment naturally and faculty trained skillfully to impart the knowledge of this beautiful art and science.
Swami Veet Jayo