Vedic & Healing Arts
Prana is the unmanifest energy of consciousness that permeates the universe and the manifest force of creation. Prana is our life force and pranayama (life force expansion and regulation) is the practice of building, moving and directing that energy via the breath using the concentration of the mind - as the breath is one of the 3 sources of (prana) vital energy in the body and a bridge between the body and mind.
As our thoughts effect our breathing patterns (and prana) we can also control our thoughts by our conscious breath. Where the mind goes prana goes. When we breath consciously we are bringing our senses inward, guiding and controlling the prana which produces calmness, stillness, and effects us on subtle levels influencing our psychic and spiritual state which brings us to higher states of awareness. Our pranic breath has inner wisdom and has subtle effects on our consciousness. Kumbhaka (gap/retention) of breath assimilates the prana and stills the mind. The highest stage of pranayama is breathlessness or kevala kumbhaka, where the breath is naturally suspended without any effort and the yogi is in a state of absorption or samadhi.
Pranayama practices play an essential role in purifying the energy channels (nadis) and cultivating and channeling the prana, as well as oxygenating the blood, increasing blood flow to the brain, calming the mind and nervous system, cleansing toxins, helping digestion and strengthening immunity.
There are many different pranayama and advanced pranayama with concentration methods across the many yogic traditions - serving specific purposes including guiding the prana in certain energy cooridinates and may include the use bandha, mudra, mantra, nada, and bodily postures as well as conception. Pranayama is the doorway to meditation/advanced states of consciousness.
"Pranayama is the inner fire ceremony, purifying our thoughts, mind and life"