Pranayama can be translated as the expansion and increasing of our vital life force. We absorb Prana (life force) most directly through the breath and through our food. In the pranayama exercises of Hatha Yoga we make use of this by manipulating the breath – breathing into different areas of the body, using specific rhythms and movements. We learn to hold the breath in to energise our system and to increase our capacity to store Prana; we hold the breath out to direct the energy in the subtle body with the ultimate aim of purifying both body and mind.
The rhythmic breathing exercises of the Hatha Yoga tradition are strong practices which bring profound benefits: they purify the nadis (energy channels) of both the physical and subtle anatomy releasing blockages and stress and helping us feel a greater sense of balance and steadiness. Pranayama is an important step on the path of yoga as it helps the individual to connect and merge with the universal energy.
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