Prāṇāyāma is one of the most deeply powerful but often underused and misunderstood practices of yoga.
Prāṇā Means Life Force
Literally, prā means first, ṇā means smallest or fundamental unit.
It is the energy that animates all things.
It makes all things move and grow.
Everything living functions because of prāṇā.
Prāṇāyāma is typically referred to as the control or regulation of the breath.
It is often assumed that prāṇāyāma is a contraction of the words prāṇā (life force) and yama (control or restraint.)
While many of the practices of prāṇāyāma do involved controlling the breath, the aim is not to control and certainly not to restrain life force, as this reading might suggest.
Consider an alternative translation of the word prāṇāyāma where prāṇā (life force) is contracted with āyāma (expansion or extension.)
By this reading, the practice of prāṇāyāma is about life force is being extended or expanded, constantly moving and growing versus being controlled or blocked in.
It’s helpful to remember that prāṇā itself cannot be manipulated, controlled, or regulated directly.
We can only work with prāṇā via a third party, so to speak.
Prāṇā is influenced by what, how, and when we eat,
Our sleep quality and quantity,
Where we live,
The kind of work we do,
The amount of stress in our life,
The way we move our body,