Pranayama is the fourth limb of Raja Yoga or Astanga Yoga presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
What is before breath? Life is before breath and is the cause of breath. Pranayama is the knowledge and control of Prana. The breath represents only one manifestation of the prana in your body. Prana is the power that enables us to breath not the breath itself but the power behind movement. Air is a gateway to prana and its manifestation in the body. When we breathe there are two things which we take in air and prana,
Mind and prana exist together and are inseparable, two aspects of the same phenomenon. Prana is the principle of movement and mind is the principle of intelligence. All actions require prana, including thinking. By slowing down the breath, the thoughts are slowed down. Pranayama is an effective meditation technique using this understanding to still the ever-active mind.
"Movement of thought in the mind arises from the movement of prana; and the movement of prana arises because of the movement of thought in consciousness. They thus form a cycle of mutual dependence, like waves and movement of currents in water."
"THE SUPREME YOGA", YOGA VASISTHA, TRANS: SWAMI VENKATESANANDA, second edition 1991, pg.313 5-78-14
"...by control of the life-force the mind is also restrained: even as the shadow ceases when the substance is removed, the mind ceases when the life-force is restrained."
"THE SUPREME YOGA", YOGA VASISTHA, TRANS; SWAMI VENKATESANANDA, SECOND ED. 1991, Pg.229, 5-13-83
Prana can be perceived and controlled by a human being with the mind. Thoughts and desires are pranic manifestations that are more subtle than the currents of energy flowing through the nadis. If you can control your breath you will also control the currents of energy that flow through the nadis and it will be easier to control the manifestations of prana in your being. You may then control your thoughts and desires and the control of our thoughts and desires is crucial in controlling your mind.
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