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April 27, 2015
Our state of mind is closely linked to the quality of prana within. The more content a person is and the better he or she feels, the more prana is inside. The more disturbed a person is, the more prana is dissipated and lost. Because we can influence the flow of prana through the flow of our breath, the quality of our breath influences our state of mind and vice versa. In yoga we are trying to make use of these connections so that prana concentrates and can freely flow within us. One definition of the word yogi is "one whose prana is all within his body." In pranayama we want to reduce the amount of prana outside the body until there is none leaking out.
The link between mind and breath is most significant. The Yoga Sutra says that when we practice pranayama the veil is gradually drawn away from the mind and there is growing clarity. The mind becomes ready for deep meditations. Thus, pranayama is first and foremost awareness of the breath.
Here, we focus our attention on the breath. In the practice of pranayama it is therefore very important to keep an alert mind, for the processes that are being observed are very subtle. There is no visible movement of the body as in asana practice; we must acutely sense and feel the movement of the breath within.
The only dynamic process is breathing. Patanjali makes a few practical suggestions for keeping our attention on the breath. For example, we can focus on where it enters and leaves the body at the nostrils. It is also possible to listen to the breath, especially if you make a slight noise by gently contracting the vocal chords, a pranayama technique known as ujjayi. Or we can follow the areas through which the air passes through.
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