Pranayama literally means the control of Prana, or the life force, which causes us to exist, in the body. Prana mostly enters the body through the breath; hence, various schools of Yoga have advocated various types of breathing exercises to control the breath so as to circulate more and more Prana in the body.

A word of caution for those who have not practiced Yoga or have no time for it, merely following such exercises can do harm to the body. The origins of Pranayama can be traced to one verse in the Bhagawat Geeta and seven in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, however from studying these verses one finds that undue importance has not been given to the practice of Pranayama.

Prana 3D Art
If mere control of breath, or breathing exercises could lead one to THE TRUTH OF ENLIGHTENMENT, then you would find millions or students of yoga in an enlightened state. Or better still; a Hippopotamus with powers of breath retention could be the most enlightened being in the world. I am not rubbishing the practice of Pranayama. Pranayama has to be done in a natural state of mind, whereby one imagines and experiences a natural force of divine or cosmic energies entering and purifying ones body. When one does Pranayama in such a state of mind then there is no need to regulate the breath, the breath automatically regulates itself to the needs of the body and opens up the mind and flows towards those body parts, which need it, most the MEDITATION OF SILENCE. is the most natural way to do Pranayama without complicated breathing exercises.

Bhagawat Geeta
4.29. Yet some offer as sacrifice, the outgoing into the in-coming breath, and the in-coming into the out-going, stopping the courses of the in-coming and out-going breaths, constantly practicing the regulation of the vital energy; while others yet of regulated food, offer in the Prânas the functions thereof.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
2.49 When that exists, control of incoming and outgoing energies is next.
2.50 It may be external, internal, or midway, regulated by time, place or number, and of brief or long duration.
2.51 Energy-control, which goes beyond the sphere of external and internal, is the fourth level- the vital.
2.52 In this way, that which covers the light is destroyed.
2.53 Thus the mind becomes fit for concentration.
2.54 When the mind maintains awareness, yet does not mingle with the senses, nor the senses with sense impressions, then self-awareness blossoms.
2.55 In this way comes mastery over the senses.

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