Often translated as a "set of breathing techniques", actually the Sanskrit term Prāṇāyāma means so much more.
Generically translated as "breath control" dividing the word into "prāṇā-yāma", where:
prāṇa means "vital energy" and yāma "to hold back, to control" (prāṇa)
During my studies I get insight this concept and I would say that a more fitting translation is "extension of energy" which appears to be also more harmonic with the aim of this sādhana (practice with an aim).
This translation comes from the singular meaning of these Sanskrit terms:
- prāṇa "vital energy" often identified with the "breath" without which life ceases. Actually breath it is known to be one of prāṇa vehicles for the Yoga physiology of subtle body;
and the negative form of yāma or
- āyāma "extend or prolong" (prāṇa).
Even if breathing is the first action we do into this world, still we often lack of explore it properly. Breath is linked to our emotion, to our mind and to the effectiveness of our actions.
Prāṇāyāma is an important sādhanā (discipline, practice) of Indian culture, often associated with Yoga but also present in other philosophical systems. Through the use of breathing techniques that intentionally alter the breath, we can activate the energy to achieve physical and mental benefits such as: