means life force or energy and 'āyāma'
is the practice of lengthening or extending. Our primary source of energy is the air we breath. Therefore a useful translation of prāṇāyāma is 'the regulation of the breath.'
Broadly speaking, prāṇāyāma is the science of breath control. Mind and breath are intimately connected and the breath can be readily utilised as a tool for consciously calming the mind, altering consciousness and expanding awareness. In haṭha yoga, there are a number of specific prāṇāyāma methods utilised for a range of purposes such as:
- Integration/reconciliation of positive and negative mental polarities
- Cleansing and purification the nervous system and energetic pathways
- Extension and containment the life force - prāna in the body
- Calming the mind and preparation for higher stages of meditation
- Increased longevity
Regular prāṇāyāma practice improves respiration and helps to establish a healthy body & a calm and tranquil mind. It is an excellent prerequisite for meditation and other spiritual practices.