Prāṇāyāma () is a Sanskrit word translated alternatively by “extension of prāṇa (breath or life force)” or “breath control”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words: prana meaning the life force (noted in particular the breath), and either ayama (restricting or controlling the prana, involving a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally modified to produce specific results) or the negative form ayāma, meaning to extend or draw (as in the prolongation of the life force). It is a yogic discipline with origins in ancient India.

Prāṇāyāma (Devanagari 🙂 is a Sanskrit compound. VS Apte provides fourteen different meanings for the word prāṇa (Devanagari:,), including these: Monier-Williams defines the compound as “(m, also pl.) N. of the three” breathing exercises “performed during ( See, This technical definition refers to a particular system of breath control with three processes, as explained by Bhattacharyya: ‘(to breathe in),’ (to hold it), and (to discharge it). In addition to this three-stage model, Macdonell gives the etymology as + yyāma and defines it as “suspension of breath (sts pl.)”. Apte’s definition of “drifts from +” and provides several variants of prāṇāyāma The first three meanings have to do with “length”, “expansion, extension” and “stretching, extension”, but in the specific case of use in the compound “it defines” as meaning “to retain, to control, to stop.” An alternative etymology for the compound is quoted by Ramamurti Mishra, who says that:

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā. According to the Bhagavad-Gītā as it is, the prāṇāyāma is translated as “the trance induced by stopping all breathing”, being also made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.

Pranayama is the fourth “member” of the eight members of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 to 2.51, and dedicates verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explain the benefits of the practice. Patanjali does not fully understand the nature of prana, and the theory and practice of pranayama seem to have developed significantly after him. He introduces pranayama as a preliminary exercise to concentration, as do early Buddhist texts. Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama is part of a global practice that includes other members of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.

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