There are 8 procedures in Ashtanga Yoga ( अष्टांग योग) mentioned in verse 2.29 in the the Yug sutras of Patanjali, named as Patanjali Yog Sutra. Patanjali was a Hindu Rishi/ Sage, who drew an advanced ,scientific and specific approach to Yog for the benefit of entire humankind. They are Yam (self restraint), Niyam (fixed observance), Asan (specific posture), Pranayam (breath control exercise), pratyahar (abstraction), Dhyan (contemplation), dharana (concentration) , and Samadhi (trance).
Pranayam is conscious respiration of vital force by increasing it’s dimension. Pranayam is actually the expansion of your regular breath in a particular mode, by controlling the speed and depth of breath, between inspiration, holding of breath and expiration. We can expand the amplitude of the breath voluntarily. When we breathe in (inhale), we feel the vital energy force of the universe with a superior consciousness, behold it within us for a while just to replace the negativity inside as and when we breathe out (exhale), we feel that our viscous thoughts, feelings and imaginations are being thrown out.
The power of Pranayam opens the door of our inner eternal power , in such a manner that from the smallest atom to the greatest galaxy in the Universe can be moved from their place.
Pranayam usually consists of three steps-
Purak ( Conscious Inhalation )
Kumbhak ( Breath retention within)
Rechak ( Conscious exhalation)
Purak (पूरक) -means breathing in ( inspiration)- where breath is taken in as the cosmic vital force, scientifically it’s pure and clean oxygen incorporated with our soulful consciousness. Time span is usually 5 seconds.
Kumbhak ( कुंभक) – In kumbhak, this inspired energy in the form of oxygen is retained, so that scientifically it allows the lungs to achieve a longer exchange period. It is the breath retention physically the lungs in expanded position. Kumbhak is both internal and external. Time span is usually 10 seconds.
Rechak (रेचक)- It means throwing out or cleaning. Here we breathe out or expire the viscious or negative thoughts, feelings and imaginations, which are harmful for us in the form of exhaled air or scientifically carbon dioxide. Time span is usually 5 seconds .
In Yogis ( mystics) the time span can be prolonged by practice accordingly.
Actually pranayam helps one to expand their breathing from an individual level to the cosmic level. In other words we can say this energy which is confined to an individual is expanded and connected with the cosmic energy of the universe. and this actually is Pranayam, the extension of our vital force or bringing vitality in our inhalation and exhalation process. It is an essential breathing exercise which helps to improve our concentration and hence our internal power is directly connected to the cosmic power.
Pranayam is also mentioned in verse 4.29 of Bhagwat Geeta. According to it- “Pranayam is trance induced by stopping all breathing” .
We actually incorporate, the Pran (प्राण) , or the vital energy in the cycle of breathing. It is a very simple technique in which we control the breath just to input the Prana or vital life force. It helps us in increasing our energy, bringing ultimate concentration, improves our mental ability, imparts us physical strength, releases stress and negativity and makes a soulful.
Slowly we are able to master the breath at the levels of internal holding, breath retention and external holding. As breathing is an involuntary action, when we start practicing Pranayam, we introduce regular exercise in our breath control, which includes deliberate methods of inhalation, breath retention and exhalation. It is designed and essential for our mental ,physical, spiritual, Universal and cosmic benefits and well being.