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Meaning Of Pranayam

(Sanskrit: प्राणायाम prāṇāyāma)

Prāṇāyāma i s a Sanskrit word which  simply means  to “expand  prāṇa (breath or life force)” or “breath control.” Pranayama is the conscious awareness of breath: the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body.  The Great Rishi Patanjali has defined Pranayama as a process in which respiration is interupted and Prana.i.e. the vital life force is controlled and regulated.   Many believe that Prana is Air, but it is something more than JUST AIR.


Pranayama is the fourth aspect “limb” of the spiritual Ashtanga yoga . Patanjali, outlined these limbs as follows:

  1. Yama (ethical living)
  2. Niyama (healthy living)
  3. Asana (the meditative sitting posture, or the more physical yoga poses)
  4. Pranayama (awareness of one’s breath)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawing one’s mind from the senses)
  6. Dharana (deep concentration)
  7. Dhyana (deep meditation)
  8. Samadhi (enlightenment)

Pranayama consists of four discernible stages:

  1. Puraka (inhalation)
  2. Abhyantara kumbhaka (the mindful pause after inhalation)
  3. Rechaka (exhalation)
  4. Bahya Kumbhaka (the mindful pause after exhalation)

Prana, is the Vital Force which is the power motivating energy of the earth and which is the origin of the force of thought.  There is a deep connection between Prana and mental force, mental force and intellect, intellect and soul,  and between soul and God,  Thus, the purpose of Pranayama is to inspire, regulate, balance and motivate the Prana, ie. the vital force within the body.  This is the reason why Pranayama s considered one of the effiicacious means of attaining yoga.