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Read more about Breath from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

What is Breath?

The true breathing is not merely the inspiration and expiration from the lungs which is merely the mechanism of it, but a drawing in of the universal energy of Prana into every cell of the body. [1]

Control of the Breath “Prāṇāyāma”

Prāṇāyāma is the regulated direction and arrestation by exercises of breathing of the vital currents of energy in the body. [2]

In simpler words, Pranayama is the control of the breath or vital power; for breathing is the chief physical functioning of the vital forces. [3]

Why is doing Pranayama Helpful?

The first objects of the Pranayama are to purify the nervous system, to circulate the life-energy through all the nerves without obstruction, disorder or irregularity, and to acquire a complete control of its functionings, so that the mind and will of the soul inhabiting the body may be no longer subject to the body or life or their combined limitations. [4]

Pranayama helps in two ways. First, it completes the perfection of the body. The vitality is liberated from many of the ordinary necessities of physical Nature; robust health, prolonged youth, often an extraordinary longevity are attained. On the other hand, Pranayama awakens the coiled-up serpent of the Pranic dynamism in the vital sheath and opens to the Yogin fields of consciousness, ranges of experience, abnormal faculties denied to the ordinary human life while it puissantly intensifies such normal powers and faculties as he already possesses. [5]

For Regulating the Pranic Energy

The exercises of Pranayama are the mechanical means of freeing and getting control of the pranic energy. They heighten too and set free the psychic, mental and spiritual energies which ordinarily depend for their opportunity of action on the pranic force. But the same thing can be done by mental will and practice or by an increasing opening of ourselves to a higher spiritual power of the Shakti. [6]

How to do Pranayama?

Pranayama is done by various regulations of the breathing, starting from equality of respiration and inspiration and extending to the most diverse rhythmic regulations of both with an interval of inholding of the breath. In the end the keeping in of the breath, which has first to be done with some effort, and even its cessation become as easy and seem as natural as the constant taking in and throwing out which is its normal action. [7]

Initially, breathe in very slowly through the left nostril to the count of 4, then hold your breath for 4, lifting the diaphragm and lowering the head, closing all the openings Then, exhale for 4 seconds through the other nostril and again hold the breath for 4 seconds, in which one should be completely empty. [8]

But instead of doing equal amounts of time, it might be better to do less for inhaling and more for holding the breath. When the air is inside, let's say you have a headache or a sore throat or a pain in your arm, anything—then you take the air and direct it to the unwell part. It is very, very helpful. [9]

Read more about Breath from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.