Pranayama – Breathing Techniques/Regulation of energy via the breath
The word ‘Prana’ refers to the life force or vital energy that flows in and through everything and everyone in the universe.
It is used to explain the very essence or energy that keeps us alive. Prana often describes our breath, and by working with how we breathe, we can affect our minds in a good number of ways.
With every breath taken in, prana is absorbed into our bodies.
You might also find it fascinating to note that your thoughts are also a form of Prana, so quieting your mind can help you regulate your internal energy and vitality.
Perhaps one other fascinating thing about Pranayama is that it can portray two different things, which may lead you in two very different directions at this juncture on the path to freedom.
Firstly, Pranayama can be understood as ‘Prana-Yama,’ which interpreted literally would mean ‘breath control’ or ‘breath restraint,’ which is one direction.
On the other path, it could be understood as ‘prana-ayama’ which translated would mean ‘breath liberation’ or ‘freedom of breath,’ or ‘breath expansion.’
The physical act of engaging in different breathing exercises and techniques changes the functioning of the mind in several ways.
We may opt for calm practices like Chandra Bhadana- moon piercing breath or choose more stimulating exercises like Kapalabhati – shining skull cleansing breath.
What’s important is that each way of breathing will alter our state of being.
Still, it’s up to us if we see the state alteration as controlling how we feel or freeing ourselves from the habitual way our mind has been programmed to function.
Generally, this fourth limb is all about breathing techniques and exercises that energize the body, calms the mind, helps the body relax, enhances sleep, and even boost the immune system.
Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)
The fifth limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is Pratyahara, which in literal terms, means the withdrawal of senses.
This fifth limb is basically about withdrawing your senses from the external world and drawing them inward to explore them more and become more familiar with your internal landscape.
You will recall that up till this point, and the primary focus has been on the externals – on the others, that is on your body, and then on your breath.
But here, that your breath is used as a bridge to access the state of pratyahara, which is the starting point of the internal journey that ultimately results in spiritual power, insight, and foresight.
The first four stages or limbs we studied earlier enables us to refine the parts of our personality that might want to get in our way towards ascending through the rest of the stages.
Let’s mention again that the first part of your journey is about gaining mastery over your body so that you’d be able to cultivate an energetic awareness of yourself.
Many thanks to limbs one to four as you’re now ready and have built a solid foundation to ascend to the second part of your journey, which entails transcending the senses and thought so that you’d be able to access higher and better states of consciousness.
Now let’s see the details. Just Like I said earlier, The fifth limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is Pratyahara, which in literal terms means the withdrawal of senses.
In this case, the body is denied access to receiving sensory information that enters through the ear, eyes, tongue, skin, and nose.
A recent study has concluded that the human senses are six in number, as the study had found out that based on genetic, some persons can feel the awareness of themselves in space, called proprioception.
But for this work, we would stick to popular study – five human senses.
Pratyahara, as it were, is a form of abstraction that shuts out the external source of information that could cause a reaction based on feelings.
Here, the senses that stir up emotions or sentiment-based reactions are shut out, such that any response whatsoever that is released is from the individual’s innermost being.
Pratyahara can also be a method of teaching oneself emotional intelligence.
According to John Mayer, emotional intelligence is defined as controlling one’s emotions and other people’s. In a literal term, we could say the ability or capacity to manage our reactions to objects, events, places, or people.
From Goleman’s components of emotional intelligence, we find self-awareness – the ability to identify emotions correctly and manage its effect on you and others.
In a world where everyone exudes sentiments and does not see anything wrong with it, there is a need to stop it.
Pratyāhāra encourages and instills the mastery of emotional intelligence, where you have to create a mental focus for yourself.
Any information into the human mind comes assuredly from these five sources – the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, and the skin.
It, therefore, means a man can control the receptiveness of his senses, and this what Pratyahara means.
However, it could be practiced by shutting the eyes for at least ten minutes in a day, taking a break from social media, TV, and the media, sitting alone, or staying still just to meditate.
All of these are done to ensure any information is not transmitted to the receptive centers in the brain.
Pratyahara could be done by observing the breath; the control of the breath without externalities.
It could also be practiced by shutting the operation of one of the senses, thereby putting concentration on the others.
In its professionalism, it could be done on a meditation seat or meditative posture.
Meditation seat is a seat commonly used by Buddhist and Hindu to facilitate meditation.
It is a posture in which the individual sits upright without bending nor reclining. The idea is to ensure uprightness in the body, which later reflects in the mind of the individual.
The benefit of Pratyahara is not only for the mind wholeness alone but also for the bodily wholeness.
Yoga stretches and helps the body relax. This stage is used to cause a total and complete mind and body relaxation.