Getting to the HEART of Pranayama Breathing
Pranayama breathing is a series of various deep breathing exercise techniques prescribed and practiced widely amongst practitioners and students of yoga and Ayurveda. The benefits of pranayama breathing extend throughout the entire body via the srotamsi, or channels. The srotamsi are the vehicles for ingesting and digesting all food, water, and objects of the senses. It is through the srotamsi that all matter is metabolized into pure consciousness and remove the metabolic waste. Each srotamsi has a root, a pathway, and an opening. Of the thirteen srotamsi, several of them are either rooted in, pass through, or open into the HEART. When we practice pranayama we directly affect the HEART.
Through the HEART, we can reach every tissue in the body including the mind, making the field of action of pranayama vast. In Ayurveda we have an intimate knowledge of the mind, which is not always understanding in allopathic medicine. As a student of yoga, surely you have heard the rhetoric about the mind not being separate from the body. The science of pranayama breathing brings illumination and knowledge to this widely stated, yet frequently misunderstood concept.
To fully understand the scope of action of pranayama, let’s explore the srotamsi, or channels that are affected when we practice pranayama breathing. Obviously, when we inhale, we take in oxygen through the nose which enters the blood stream via the capillary action in the lungs and the passage through the atrioventricular junction in the HEART. This channel is known as the prana vaha srotas. The rakta vaha srotas then circulates the oxygentated blood from the HEART throughout the body to all the major organs including the liver and spleen. The venus return system is part of the same channel as the lymphatic system known as rasa vaha srotas. Rasa is where the body’s immune system lies and through which all the tissues are nourished. Rasa vaha srotas brings our journey back to the AV junction in the HEART where it physiologically began.
Aside from the rakta and rasa vaha srotas, the cardiac plexus, or the HEART is also the root of the mind carrying channel, or mano vaha srotas. The mano vaha srotas is a key part of our overall well being since the pathway of this channel is the entire body and the opening of the channel are all 108 marmani. Marmani are the vital points similar to acupuncture points which are doorways to our pharmacopia of self healing. Remember, our journey began by inhaling through the nose….
Now that you understand the vast field of action of pranayama breathing, you can begin to cultivate a daily practice with enthusiasm. As with any yoga or Ayurvedic practice, it is best to be patient and consistent. Consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner or seasoned yoga instructor to find out pranayama breathing exercises that might be specifically beneficial for you according to your body type. Or check out one of the many books or instructional videos available from experts on the topic like Dr. Vasant Lad or B.K.S. Iyengar.