And now, the fourth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga.
What was your very first act when you were born? … I can tell you that it will also be your last act in your life. Another hint… It is that same act that keeps you alive right this moment. Breath! Are you aware of it?
Ben, our fictional character leading an everyday normal daily life, noticed that he is not aware of his breath most of the time. But one day, he got very angry and started yelling because of something that happened that he did not expect. Then someone he loved told him...”Take a breath and calm down”.
So he did. While becoming aware of his breath, he noticed that his breathing was heavier and faster than normal and that the muscles in his forehead were very tense. This got him thinking. This external situation that did not meet his expectations, made his body react and changed his normal breath. He asked himself: “Does it also work the other way around? Could I also control the way I feel by changing the very way I breathe?”
Ancient scientists have noticed that to be able to make the physical body move and work, required something they then called ‘prāna’. Nowadays, we know this concept as energy. Just like your phone requires electricity to work, our body needs prāna. We have already seen that the way that this energy flows through different parts of our body, creates certain sensations in the body that we call emotions.
Prānāyāma literally means controlling the prāna, the life force energy. Now what does Māhārishi Patanjali say about how to control the prāna?
By breaking the flow of the breath. Letting breath in, out or holding it for different durations, counts and while focusing on specific places in the body will make the breath long and subtle.
So, in other words, by consciously controlling our breath, we can control our life force energy. So Ben was right! We are indeed capable of controlling the way we feel through the breath.
Nowadays, there are many breathing techniques developed around this knowledge that Māhārishi Patanjali wrote down. Many of these can be learned at Yoga Peetha Happiness Centre in an appropriate environment and with the right guidance. Feel free to contact us and learn more.
Next time we will have a look at the next limb of yoga that Māhārishi Patanjali mentions, ‘Pratyahāra’.