The 8-Limb Path: Pranayama

Pranayama, or breath control, is the fourth limb on the 8-limb path to enlightenment and acts as a vital bridge between the body and mind. The word ‘pranayama’ can be broken down and interpreted in two different ways: prana + yama and prana + ayama. Prana meaning ‘life force energy’, yama meaning ‘restraint’ or ‘control’, and ayama meaning the opposite- expansion. Therefore, pranayama means both breath control and breath liberation. A regular and sustained practice of pranayama balances both the lunar and solar subtle energies within our bodies, brings calming and revitalizing benefits to ‘supercharge’ the whole body, significantly reduces stress, increases focus, and prepares our minds for deep meditation.

By controlling the breath, we can learn to control prana (the life force energy) and subsequently our minds. If you check in with your emotional state, you can observe that your breathing patterns are directly linked to your state of mind and thought patterns. We breathe differently depending on if we’re feeling excited, frustrated, stressed, or tired. When we incorporate a consistent pranayama practice into our lives, we can alter our physical and emotional state to our advantage – for example using calming, balancing practices like alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) or more energizing techniques like the breath of fire (Kapalabhati). Utilizing pranayama techniques allow us to control our emotions, still our minds, and improve the quality of our breath and our lives. Everyone can benefit from and access the powerful benefits of a simple pranayama practice.

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