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Lesson 48 -
Pranayama and Health (Audio)
Date: Tue Dec 16, 2003 11:04am
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: Does doing pranayama have any practical health benefits? It seems like it would.
A: Yes. As with meditation, pranayama promotes purification in the nervous system. Being a
physical process, it also has direct effects in the body that we can readily notice as our
practice progresses. It has positive effects on the lungs, the brain, the digestive
system, the heart, and the reproductive organs, just to name a few. It also steadies the
mind and emotions. As prana flows increasingly in the body, a lustrous, palpable energy
radiates from the skin, creating an "aura" of health and strength that can be
beneficial to others.
But none of this comes overnight, or from irregular practice of pranayama. Neither does it
come from "binge" practicing where nothing is practiced for days or weeks, and
then excessive pranayama is done impulsively to try and take a big step forward all at
once. It does not work like that. In this respect, pranayama is like any other kind of
bodily culture. A little practice twice each day is far superior to a lot of practice days
or weeks apart. The latter is not bodily culture at all, and can be hazardous to the
If you decided to become a long distance runner, would you begin by working out once a
week, or whenever you felt like it, trying to run five or ten miles at a time right out of
the box? If you did, your career in running would be short lived. For the best chance of
success, you would start out running short distances every day, and gradually work up to
your goal distance over a period of months. Physical culture requires regular, measured
practice. This is how serious athletes train.
Spiritual practice is like athletics in that we are gradually training our body and
nervous system to conduct and radiate a greatly increased level of pure bliss
consciousness. This is a large undertaking that can be accomplished through many small,
daily steps over a long period of time. The benefits of such an approach are cumulative,
and noticeable along the way. Advanced yoga practices promote purification and balance
deep in the nervous system, and some results will be noticed almost immediately after
starting practice. One of the easily noticeable benefits is improving health. So, yes,
pranayama continues the trend toward good health that we began when we started meditation.
It should be emphasized that pranayama is not a miracle cure that will instantly do away
with the results of years of unhealthy living. In fact, if unbalanced living has seriously
compromised the health, it may not be possible to undertake pranayama right away. A
certain level of health, particularly of the respiratory system, is necessary to undertake
pranayama. We never should overextend beyond our physical capability in pranayama. Our
practice should be matched to the level of our capability. If we are weak, pranayama
should be at a minimum, or not at all. If we are strong, we can do more. Always consider
carefully before you commit to a level of pranayama practice. Meditation can be practiced
by almost anyone in any health situation without putting an extra burden on the body.
Pranayama is different. It requires a certain minimum level of health to be practiced
safely and effectively. Be mindful of that and always gauge your practice of pranayama to
your present physical condition so as not to put an undue burden on your body. For
example, while meditation during sickness can be helpful, pranayama will not, especially
if one is suffering from a respiratory illness. When the lungs are ailing, do not tax
them. Neither would we go out and run a mile if we were sick.
If you combine good, old-fashioned common sense with your pranayama practice you will gain
many benefits, including improved health.
The guru is in you.
Related Lessons Topic Path
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Note: For detailed instructions on spinal
breathing, see the
AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book,
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