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Pranayama & Significance of breathing

Pranayama is the systematic process by which we gain control and mastery over the Prana. It plays a very important role to control the vital energy forces inside us (Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana). While doing Pranayama, a person may use both nostril, half-opened nostril, left or right nostril. In starting the person can use his/her ONLY right hand (little finger & ring finger for left nostril and Thumb for right nostril) to control the breathings. Later on, in higher state, he /she doesn’t require to use hand and he/she is able to change the flow of breathing from one nostril to another, according to his/her requirement. There are two methods to do this practice - Square /Equal (Sum) Pranayama and Unequal (Visham).

In Square Pranayama, breathing must be in following Ratio (1:1:1:1)
Stage Inhalation
(Purak)
Retention
(Kumbhak)
Exhalation
(Rechak)
Suspension
(Shunyak)
Lower 5-10 5-10 5-10 5-10
Middle 10-20 10-20 10-20 10-20
Higher 20-30 20-30 20-30 20-30

In Unequal (Visham) Pranayama, breathing must be in following
Ratio (1:4:2:2)
Stage Inhalation
(Purak)
Retention
(Kumbhak)
Exhalation
(Rechak)
Suspension
(Shunyak)
Lower 4 16 8 8
Middle 8 32 16 16
Higher 12 48 24 24
There are so many types of Visham Pranayama
Anulom-Vilom, Brhamari, Plavini, Angulik, Ujjayi, Murchha, Bhasrika, Kapalbhati,
Shitali, Shitkari, Pratilom, Suraya Bhedan, Chandra Bhedan, NadI-shodhan etc.
In Pranayama, breathing plays a very important role in the human body. Breathing, however, is unique in the sense that it is normally not in our consciousness as we are busy with the business of our daily life, but at any moment can become conscious of it by the simple act of paying attention.
We can stay for sometime without food and even water. But if breathing stops for more than few minutes, we face death. In that sense breath is life. We are born with the first conscious breath and die with the last.
Harmful ways of working, eating and thinking, physical strain and stress, mental and emotional upheaval all influence the rhythm and rate of breathing. Living in an irrational fearful and violent world adversely affects our way of breathing. The way we breath affects our body, brain system and vice-versa. For example, when we are angry, breathing in upper lobe of the chest becomes fast. When shocked, one misses a beat. Breathing is steady if thinking and feeling is not upset. Conversely, thinking and feeling are balanced if breathing is rhythmic. Over the years our breathing has become shallow, irregular and unduly fast by adversely affecting our health and sanity, on the one hand due to our unawareness with this secret knowledge and on the other due to environmental pollution.
Amanaskakhandam, 1-3 says, “No greater elements than Bio-energy (prana) exists in the body.”
Gorakshasamhita, 1-46 says, “The science of bio-energy including the regulation of breathing movements is the practical yoga par excellence. He, who knows its secret, knows yoga.”
Hath yoga pradipika, 2-20says, “The respiration being disturbed, the mind becomes disturbed. By restraining respiration, the yogi gets steadiness of mind.”
It is said about the span of life that one’s life is determined by the number of breaths one breathes. This is amplified in the case of animals.

Those animals whose rate of breathing is fast have shorter span of life, i.e.
Rabbit Rate of Breathing 42/minute lives for 10 years
approx
Horse Rate of Breathing 35/minute lives for 20-30 years
approx
Elephant Rate Of Breathing 5/minute lives for 100-200 years
approx
Tortise Rate Of Breathing 3/minute lives for 150-400 years
approx
(CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF PRANAYAMA)