Proper breathing profoundly improves our whole physical and mental well being. The Breathe is intimately connected with our state of health and improper breathing will often reflect various disturbances of body and mind. The breath is perhaps the only physiological process that can be either voluntary or involuntary. One can breathe with awareness and control the breathing process consciously or one can ignore it and breathe reflexively or unconsciously. If the breath is unconscious, it falls under the control of primitive parts of the brain, where emotions, thoughts and feelings of which we have little or no awareness become involved. In this way the regularity and rhythms of the breath are disturbed and it flows in an uncoordinated way, creating havoc in the body and mind. Pranayama is the yogic technique to bring the breathing in regularity, rhythmic and balanced. Lot of techniques is involved in Pranayama.
Pranayama is defined as breath control. Although this interpretation may seem correct in view of the practices involved, it does not convey the full meaning of the term. The word Yoga Pranayama is comprised of two roots: prana plus ayama. Prana means "vital energy" or "life force". It is the force, which exists in all things, whether animate or inanimate. The word Ayama is defined as "extension" or "expansion". Thus, the word Pranayama means "extension or expansion of the dimension of prana". The techniques of Pranayama provide the method whereby the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one's normal boundaries or limitations and attain a higher state of vibratory energy.
In the Pranayama practices there are four important aspects of Breathing, these are
This is an advanced stage of Pranayama, which occurs during high states of meditation. During this state, the lungs stop their activity and the respiration ceases. At this time, the veil, which prevents one from seeing the subtle aspects of existence, is lifted and a higher vision of reality is attained.
The most important part of Pranayama is actually kumbhaka or breath retention. However, in order to perform kumbhaka successfully, there must be a gradual development of control over the function of respiration. These practices influence the flow of prana in the nadis, purifying, regulating and activating them, thereby inducing physical and mental stability
Asana is the third step in the Ashtanga Yoga. In the Yoga sutras, Patanjali, concisely defined Yogasanas as :
"Sthiram Sukham Asanam", which means, comfortable and steady. Raja Yoga equates Yogasanas to stable sitting position.
The Hatha yogi found that certain specific body positions (Asanas) open the energy channels and psychic centers. They found that developing control of the body through these practices enabled them to control the mind and energy. Yogasana became tools to higher awareness providing the stable foundation necessary for the exploration of the body, breath, mind and higher states. There are 84, 00,000 Asanas. Main of them are as follows :