It is time to modernize the ancient. Due to lapse of time, even purely scientific thoughts get covered with layers of dust of ignorance, misconstruction or misapplication. Yoga itself has suffered it for the simple reason that it has been propagated as a Hindu Religious Practice. Is it so? No, it is not. Yoga is the scientific knowledge of need of striking a balance in life i.e. Sanyam. The human mind is hardly ever in a still, composed or equanimity state. It is always wandering. It wants to do so many things at the same time. It is full of desires, which are never satisfied fully. Even when satisfied, they are overtaken by other stronger desires. It is all the time pursuing desires. Even in sleep, desires don’t allow us a peaceful sound sleep. Unless we understand this nature of our mind, we will always remain dissatisfied with ourselves. That is not a good sign. It affects our health. It is the cause of all our troubles in life, whether social or economic or other kind. It leads to frustration in life, which may develop into depression if not checked. We start comparing ourselves with others. The only thing we get in this kind of life is gloom, drool and melancholia. Some people might even develop mental disorders needing psychiatric intervention. Some, like school children failing to attain the target mentally set by them for themselves even though they figure in the first ten toppers, commit suicide. The Valentine Fever Struck are prone to suicides rather easily. University students poisoned by politically motivated abetment often commit suicide for a moment of glory. Speculators in the financial markets feed similar news to the media regularly. All these mental conditions need tempering suitably before they take the shape of suicidal tendencies. There are no failures in life. Everyone succeeds to the extent s/he is made to be by a combination of inputs like physical, mental & emotional health. There is enough for everyone in this world, though everything in this world is not for only one person, howsoever big s/he may be. Yoga is one among many options available today to attain the right kind of restraint on ourselves. Those who can successfully strike a balance are all Yogi even though they might be practicing Yoga in their own way.
Pranayam is the foremost requirement for attaining the equanimity we are talking about. It is no mystique, though it has, perhaps, been the most misconstrued word from the Patanjali Yogshashtra. It is actually a simple term comprising two adjuncts- Pran + aayaam. Pran means life and aayaam means expansion or elongation. It has been stated in the treatises that we are alive due to Pran in our body. At death, it is said that the Pran has left the body (pran nikal gaye). A dead body is described as Nishpran or one without pran. Pran & Apaan are used in Yoga as inhaling and exhaling . It is, therefore, essentially an exercise in taking deep breath, preferably in the mornings, to collect enough energy to last for the day when one needs it most working for a square meal. A working woman or man needs more energy than a child. A child starts life in the mother’s womb, in a reclining state or Ayan, floating in the fluid sack in the womb. It breathes not from its lungs in that state but from his mother’s lungs. As the child eats whatever its mother eats, so it does breathe whatever its mother breathes. The entire process is through the navel with the help of the umbilical cord. After birth, the cord is broken and the child is on its own. Its lungs must breathe. It is now a conscious exercise for it. Gone are the comfortable days of reclining position of the child in the amniotic fluid. It has to learn to gain the straight posture as a sitting baby, running baby and walking human being. Once the vertebra is straightened and use of arms, legs and the whole body starts, the requirement of oxygen increases many fold. In order to arrange for the supply of such huge quantity of oxygen, a person has to consciously do something. From a state of breathing from the navel to breathing from the lungs, the lungs need to be fully developed, enlarged and expanded. In other words, this is the meaning of the Sanskrit word “Aayaam” in Praanaayaam. The lungs supply oxygen to the heart, which pumps more blood every minute during a happy state of mind and less in a mood of depression. When the heart moans, it deprives the brain of the essential food for it- oxygen. In such a state, the mind may try all it can but it can’t fill the lungs with additional amount of oxygen, nor can it supply it to the heart or the brain. Such is the significance of Praanaayaam in our busy life, threatening life with short span or Laghupraan. We need to opt for longer life span or Mahaapraan. For it, Praanaayaam is the Golden Key to a healthy and happy living. No need to see religion in pure wellness exercise.
In the ancient times, the best available methods had been employed for the purpose. In modern times, there are a number of sports and games, which can deliver the same benefits. All of them are excellent body exercises. Whether they have the same efficacy for mental and emotional health also, would need individual pondering. I have a feeling that competition, costs, distances and time required for sports and games are likely to recommend a little of Yoga, in particular Praanaayaam. Unless a person is able to exercise a bit of control on her/his desires, flitting mind, greed and ambitions and tries consciously to attain a degree of peace and happiness, physical well being through sports & games alone is unlikely to prove as efficacious as Yoga. Try Praanaayaam for a longer, healthier life and genuine happiness by making the mind realize its place in the universe.