The Science of Pranayama
Pranayama is an essential part of Yoga teacher training, as well as regular classes for students. Pranayama is a science within the larger science of Yoga. Although Yoga and pranayama have existed for thousands of years, their existence in the Western consciousness is a few hundred years old, at best.
Additionally, Yoga and origins of pranayama are interconnected. There are also internal and external martial arts systems, which practice forms of pranayama. Yet, most martial arts can track their lineage back to Yoga. The science of pranayama has evolved over thousands of years.
Pranayama is the fourth limb of Patanjali’s Yoga. Within the past few centuries, pranayama has become globally popular, due to its healing properties. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is believed to have been written in the 15th century. The Gheranda-Samhita is said to have been written in the late 17th century. Both of the above-mentioned texts give details concerning a variety of pranayama techniques for healing.
Within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, instructions are given for Surya Bhedan, Ujjayi, Sitkari, Sitali, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murchha, and Plavini. Kapalabhati is covered just a little earlier, in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, under the instructions for the Shatkarmas. Yet, the exact origin of pranayama is still unclear.
It is said that Brahman priests developed pranayama for oral transmission of the Vedas. The Vedas are a compilation of prayers and hymns. The Vedas took shape in written form, approximately 4,000 years ago. Long before the Vedas were put in writing, Brahman priests carried the message in their minds.
Considering the size of the Vedas, to recite them from memory, requires a sharp mind and amazing breath control. To this day, pranayama is still practiced during pooja, and while reciting the Vedas. Prayers and hymns are found in every religion. Therefore, anyone, of any religion, could practice pranayama, while saying their daily prayers for deeply spiritual inspiration.
Outside of India, pranayama is not often practiced during prayer. Pranayama’s value for stress reduction, general health, and asana practice, are well known. Many different types of athletes practice pranayama to enhance their physical performance. Expectant mothers practice pranayama in natural child birth and prenatal classes.
Regulation of breath control has many different purposes. Any time is a good time to control one’s breath. No matter how many times we practice breath awareness, one stressful situation can cause us to lose control of our breathing. When we have no control over our breathing, our blood pressure may also follow suit. When breath is out of control, the mind will also be out of balance.
The practice of pranayama is a time-tested method, which continues to progress as we record changes and results. Yoga teachers would do a great service, to future generations, by recording notes regarding results they have observed, due to the regular practice of pranayama techniques and other Yogic methods. For the sake of privacy, it is best not to record names, but notes create a written record of progress.