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Yoga     |     Breath     |     Mind

The breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. When we control our breath, we control our thoughts.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Pranayama has its roots in ancient Indian philosophy and has been an essential aspect of yogic practice for thousands of years. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of pranayama and its evolution over time.

The earliest mention of pranayama can be traced back to the Upanishads, which are Hindu texts written between 800 BCE and 500 BCE. These texts describe prana as the vital life force that flows through all living beings. The practice of pranayama was used as a means of harnessing this life force and channelising it for a range of benefits. It was believed that by controlling one's breath, one could control prana, and thus, gain a deeper understanding of oneself and the world around them.

The practice of pranayama gained prominence during the development of yogic practices in India. The various yoga texts written in the Middle Ages featured pranayama as an integral part of the yogic practice. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written in the 14th century, is one such text that lays down the guidelines for pranayama. It categorises pranayama into four categories, namely, puraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation), kumbhaka (retention), and Kevala Kumbhaka (the cessation of breath).

In the 20th century, the practice of pranayama gained traction in the West as well. In the mid-20th century, Swami Sivananda brought the practice of pranayama to the West. He established the Divine Life Society in the foothills of the Himalayas, which is still a thriving centre for yoga and meditation. His teachings on pranayama, along with other yogic practices, garnered a large following in the North West and have played a pivotal role in popularising yoga in the United States and Europe.

Pranayama has continued to evolve and adapt over time. Today, different schools of yoga have their own unique methods of practising pranayama, each with its own set of benefits. Some of the popular forms of pranayama include Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), Kapalabhati (breath of fire), and Bhramari (bee breath).

Pranayama is an ancient Indian practice that has stood the test of time and continues to have a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of millions of people. Its evolution, from its mention in the Upanishads to its popularity in the West, highlights its adaptability and enduring relevance. As the practice of pranayama continues to evolve and spread, it is sure to enrich the lives of many more individuals around the world.

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