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Human body performs two types of actions. One is voluntary and second is
involuntary. Voluntary means those actions which can be done voluntarily. For
example, raising the hand, walking, and running, speaking, etc. are voluntary
actions. These actions are voluntary, one may do it, or one may not do it. It all
depends upon the persons own volition whether to perform the act or not to
perform the act.
But some of the actions are involuntary. These actions are regular beating of the
heart, the process of respiration, the process of digestion, liver functions, regular
filtration of blood by kidney etc. These are involuntary actions because it is not
under voluntary control of the person. One can not stop his heart beating, or
digestive process, as per his wish. These actions are controlled by autonomic nerves
system. These actions are adjusted as per the need of the body.
But there are certain activities which are most of the time involuntary but it can be
made voluntary if desired by the person. Respiration is such activity. It is involuntary
in normal process but can be made voluntary if desired. The cycle of respiration
goes on functioning without the knowledge of the person. But if the person likes to
change its speed, he can do it, he can slow it down or he can make it fast, or he can
stop it for short period.
Internal body mechanism is all the time controlled by the mind. Functions are
adjusted as per the bodys need. These functions of the mind are automatic. But
other activity like thinking process is voluntary. One may choose to think or not to
think. In the same way one can choose to think about any specific subject. Emotions
are partly voluntary and partly involuntary. At times one can control his emotions, at
other times one can not control his emotions. It is also observed that mental
activities are related with respiration. When a person is angry or excited, his
respiratory movements are fast. But when his mind is quiet and tranquil, the
respiratory movements are
slow. It is not possible to be angry or excited without raising respiratory rates. So it
is presumed that if one can control his respiratory movements, then he can control
his involuntary component of the mind. One can keep ones mind cool and calm by
controlling his respiration. The same principal is applied in the process of Pranayam.
In Pranayam one tries to control his respiratory movements. By which he tries to
control his mental activities. Final aim is to attain a calm and quiet mind. With the
practice of Pranayam, a person gets control over his respiratory movements.
Respiratory movements are made slower and uniform. Once he gets control over his
respiratory movements, automatically he gets control over his mental activities. He
acquires ability to keep his mind calm and quite even during the time of stress.
Calm and quiet mind is the pre-requisite for the process of meditation. So if
Pranayam is performed before meditation, it is easier to concentrate and thereby to

attain a deeper level during meditation. Meditation is the process of attaining

tranquility and quietude of the mind. Human mind is all the time busy with various
activities. At a time our mind thinks of multiple subjects. Mind can be busy in either
thinking of the past events or planning for the future. The common mind can not
concentrate on one subject for a longer time. At one moment it may think about
money, at a second moment it may think about fashionable dress, and at the third
moment it may think about his girl friend and next it may think about business
contacts. With the result the human mind is wasting most of its energy for trifle
matters. If the energy is concentrated on one subject, it can achieve better results.
Not only that but such wandering mind will not allow the person to get into deeper
meditation. Concentration is the prerequisite for the process of meditation. Mental
concentration can be achieved only by the practice of Pranayam.
Self realization is the ultimate goal of all the yogic practices. As per the Vedic
philosophy our body is having three main components: 1) Physical body 2) Mind
3) Soul or atman The physical body is gross in nature. It can be seen and felt. The
body which is made up of bones, muscles, organs, and skin is called the physical
body. Mind is subtle. It can not be seen but its presence can be felt. It governs all
the parts of the body. The soul or atman is subtler than mind. It can not be seen and
it is also difficult to feel its presence by ordinary means. It can be called as a
nucleus of the live-force. It is believed to be immortal, unborn, eternal and stable.
As per the Vedic philosophy, being immortal, it can not be destroyed by any means
At the time of death atman leaves old physical body and enters into a new physical
body. This is known as re-birth. The main characters of Atman are love,
independence, truthfulness and joy.
The mind is like pure transparent glass. The transparent glass if kept on red carpet
will look red, and if kept on green carpet will look green. Same way if the mind
associates with physical body, it takes the characters of physical body. With the
result it feels all the pain, sorrow, unhappiness, fear, hatred, ego, jealousy and other
unwanted emotions. But if the mind associates with Atman, then it takes those
characters like, love, independence, truthfulness and eternal joy.
Once a person realizes its joyful nature and immortal character and once the mind
merges itself with the Atman; mind grasps all the characters of the Atman. Then
there is no pain or unhappiness in life. The person then enjoys infinite
happiness in life. This is the ultimate goal of each follower of the spiritual path.
As per the opinion of Patanjali, it is not easy for an ordinary person to realize the self
i.e. Atman. This is because of his ignorance. Only Gnan, absolute knowledge, can
uncover the mystery of Atmic characters. As absolute knowledge is hidden behind
the curtain of ignorance, it is not possible for the ordinary people to realize the self.

This ignorance is known as Avidya. Atman can not shine with its full light because of
Avidya. As per the opinion of Patanjali, regular practice of Pranayam can uncover
the basic nature of Atman. This may lead to eternal joy and happiness. In short the
effect of Pranayam is multiple. It effects on all three components of the human
body, i.e. the physical body, the mind, and the Atman.
Effects of Pranayam
1) It keeps the body fit and healthy.
2) It enhances the general resistance power of the body. With the effect it helps in
preventing various diseases.
3) Kapalbhati Pranayam is responsible for Nadi-Shudhi, and Kumbhak Pranayam is
responsible for Chit-Shudhi.
4) Chit-Shudhi helps in de-conditioning of the mind. De- conditioning helps to
change an individuals perception for life. He becomes more rational
5) Pranayam enhances vital force, which in turn enhances mental capacity.
6) Increased mental capacity helps in building up of self- confidence. Persons having
self-confidence can achieve better success in life.
7) It strengthens the ability of concentration. Concentration helps in analyzing and
solving the problems.
8) It strengthens all the basic characters of the mind. Basic characters of the mind
are memory, intelligence, receptivity, and creativity.
9) It strengthens the will power of the person.
10) It helps in creating tranquility and calmness of the mind.
8] medical views.
Number of medical personals carried out various studies regarding effect of
Pranayam on body health. It is observed that regular practice of pranayam can
relieve stress related disorders. It also improves autonomic functions of the body.
Autonomic system of the body maintains good co-ordination and fine balance
between various systems and organs. Practitioners report that the practice of
pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power, and sound judgement, and
also claim that sustained pranayama practice extends life and enhances perception.
There are more than ten types of Pranayam. But most commonly used and the most
effective are three. These are Kapalbhati, Bhramari, and Kumbhak pranayams. All
the Pranayams are basically related with the control of the respiratory movements.


It is advisable to know normal respiratory movements before starting the practice of
Pranayam. Normal respiration can be divided into three main components: A]
Inhalation i.e. incoming of the air. B] Momentary stoppage of air. C] Exhalation i.e.
outgoing of the air.
In yogic terms the first component is called Purak, the second component is called
Kumbhak, and the third component is called Rechak. If the movement of air is
observed very closely, it will be seen that as such there are four components: 1) Air
going inside (Purak) 2) Air stopping for the moment (Kumbhak) 3) Air coming out
(Rechak) 4) Again air movement is stopped for the moment i.e. Kumbhak and
again air going inside.
So the respiratory cycle is like Purak-Kumbhak-Rechak- Kumbhak-Purak. So the
component of Kumbhak occurs two times in one normal respiratory cycle. As such it
is difficult to perceive Kumbhak in a normal cycle. In normal circumstances the
person breathes 15-16 times per minute. So it takes 4 seconds to complete one
respiratory cycle. Normally
spiratory movements are not very deep. At the time of sleep the respiration is
slower. While at the time of physical labor or mental excitement it becomes faster.
Respiration has direct relationship with the thinking process. When person is calm
and quiet his respiration is slow and when he is mentally agitated, his respiration is
faster. Hence if a person acquires the control over his respiration (so that it can be
kept slow and uniform) then he can control his thought process. The ability to
control thought process, helps the person to achieve control over his mind. Once
the mind is controlled, the person can direct his thinking process as per his own
desire. He can control his emotions. He can strengthen his will power. Such a person
can achieve anything in the world, as he is the master of his mind.
With the practice of Pranayam one can control his respiratory movements. In
Pranayam the length of all the components of respiration are increased. Ordinarily
one respiratory cycle takes four to five seconds. In Pranayam one cycle may take 30
to 60 seconds. Pranayam means controlled, uniform, and measured process of
One should understand the mechanism of normal respiration before starting the
practice of Pranayam. Respiratory organs are nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea,
bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli of the lung. There are two lungs in the body. One is
on the right side of the chest and the second on the left side of the chest. The lungs
are like sponge. It expands when filled with air and contracts when there is no air in
the lung. Small

alveoli are connected with small tubes, which are called bronchioles. These tubes
are connected to form bigger tubes, which finally connects with the bronchus. The
left and right bronchi are joined to form the trachea. The trachea opens into the
larynx. Larynx opens into the pharynx. This finally opens into the nose. During the
process of inhalation, the air passes through the nose and then to the pharynx,
larynx, trachea, bronchi and finally through the bronchioles to the alveoli of the
lungs. Here the fresh air comes in contact with blood. The oxygen part of the air is
taken away by the blood. And the carbon dioxide part of the blood is taken away by
the air. Air full of carbon dioxide comes out through the same route during