Where the physical breathing stops there pranayama begins.
Pranayama is breathing technique which stimulates and increases the vital energy, ultimately bringing about perfection and evenness of the soft flow of vayu and prana within the whole psycho-physiology. Prana is the vital force which pervades the whole universe. Prana is the link that connects consciousness and matter, Atma (individual Self) and the body. Pranayama connects the breath of individual life with the breath of Cosmic life. At every rise of the breath, Cosmic Prana receives the identity of individual life force and, at every fall of the breath, the stream of individual life contacts Cosmic Being. Between the fall and the rise of breath the state of individual life is in communion with Cosmic Being (state of Kevala kumbhaka). The goal of Pranayama is to uphold the contact of the individual life stream with the eternal life of Cosmic Being, even as the breath continues to flow.
Breathing is the link between body and mind. The breath can lead the body towards wellness and the mind towards calmness. Proper breathing produces an inner massage of the body. Pranayama bestows greater vitality and a long life. The importance of Pranayama in the path of yoga cannot be overstated. It plays a vital role as it influences both bodily health and mental well-being.
The respiratory function is both voluntary and involuntary. Normally our breathing is shallow and involuntary. In pranayama attempt is made to bring it under greater voluntary control, and thereby bring under control many other involuntary conditions of the body and mind and achieve certain control ower one's own physiological functions. Respiratory function can be more easily influenced than any other vital function and the yogi uses it as a first step in his control of the nervous system. When cortical higher brain control is achieved over one basic function, it is possible to achieve control over other basic functions as vasomotor etc. It is therefore possible to dilate bronchial tubes in an asthmatic, reduce blood pressure or increase it, reduce the rate of heart beat all with the help of pranayama. Yogi is able to control by will many functions that are controlled in ordinary human beings by subcortical areas which is beyond one's voluntary control.
Pranayama is considered one of the most powerful aids to meditation in classical yoga. Through pranayama samadhi can be reached. Pranayama simply means to „lengthen the breath, to expand prana“. Prana-nirodha corresponds to chitta-nirodha. The microcosmic wave function of individual prana expands to become the macrocosmic wave of Cosmic Prana. Making the breath long (dirgha) and subtle (sukshma), we expand individual prana to reach its Cosmic status. As the wave settles down it gains the strength of the unbounded ocean. Then we are connected with the unbounded reservoir of energy (Cosmic Prana) and intelligence. You can reach that state through meditation by refining mental activity, through pranayama, by refining the breath, or through yoga asana practice, by deepening the relaxation of the body. When individual prana expands and reaches the status of cosmic prana, then the individual mind reaches the status of the Cosmic Mind and the intelligence of the individual physiology (micro cosmos) gets in tune with Cosmic Intelligence of the Cosmic Physiology (macro cosmos). The simultaneous practice of meditation, pranayama, and yoga asana enhances the process of transcending and coming in tune with Cosmic Intelligence and Physiology. The result of this is perfect health – Svastha (established in wholeness).
Courses on pranayama:
Course on yogic self-diagnose related to vayu function and vayu shudhi practices
Course on Nadi shodana: Anuloma Viloma and Nadi Shudhi pranayama
Course on Kumbhaka pranayamas
Course on Ashtangayoga pranayama
Course on therapeutic application of pranayamas
Course on pranayama for strengthening immune system