Pranayama, aka: Prāṇāyāma, Prāṇayama, Prana-yama; 19 Definition(s)


Pranayama means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Yoga (school of philosophy)

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Prāṇāyāma according to the Haṭha Yoga-pradīpikā (chapter IV): “when the brahma-granthi (in the heart) is pierced through by prāṇāyāma, then a sort of happiness is experienced in the vacuum of the heart, and the anāhat sounds, like various tinkling sounds of ornaments, are heard in the body”. And further, “in the ārambha, a Yogī’s body becomes divine, glowing, healthy, and emits a divine swell. The whole of his heart becomes void”.

Source: Wisdom Library: Yoga

Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम, “restraint of breath”) is a Sanskrit word referring to “your energy”. It is one of the eight brances of yoga, also known as the eightfold-path (aṣṭānga). Also see the fifth section of the Varāha-upaniṣad.

Source: Wisdom Library: Yoga
Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

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Prāṇāyama (प्राणायम) is capable of controlling mind. The mind controls the sensory organs of the human body (senā).

Source: Wisdom Library: Śaivism

Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम, “breath control”) refers to one of the six members (aṅga) of the Ṣaḍaṅgayoga, as taught in the early Śaiva Siddhānta.—Ṣaḍaṅgayoga is taught as the standard yoga of the Śaivasiddhānta (Siddhānta) a mainstream, Veda congruent dualist tradition. See, for example, the 6th century texts of Raurava-āgama, Kiraṇa-āgma, Sarvajñānottara-āgama, Svāyambhuvasūtrasaṃgraha, the 7th century Mālinīvijayottara and the 9th century Tantrasadbhāva.

Source: The Śaiva Yogas and Their Relation to Other Systems of Yoga
Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

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Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम) refers to the “withholding of the breath” by way of religious austerity. It is used throughout vedic and purāṇic literature.

Source: Wisdom Library: Purāṇas

Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम).—Prāṇa means the wind in the body and āyāma means restraint. Prāṇāyāma means restraining or suspending breath. Spread on the floor a piece of cloth, or animal-skin or Kuśa grass and sitting on it cross-legged, controlling all actions of the sense-organs and concentrating on one single object do prāṇāyāma for the purification of the soul. There are three different kinds of prāṇāyāmas namely Recakaprāṇāyāma, Pūrakaprāṇāyāma and Kumbhakaprāṇāyāma.

Holding the nostrils with the left hand and massaging the belly with the other hand one sends out the air within the belly. It is called Recakaprāṇāyāma. Doing just the reverse and getting air inside is called Pūrakaprāṇāyāma. Then the yogī sits, with his belly full of air. Sitting thus without either letting the air out or letting it in is called Kumbhakaprāṇāyāma. Here the yogī sits like a pūrṇa-kumbha (full jar). The body of man is a chariot, the sense organs its horses, mind the charioteer and prāṇāyāma the whip. (Chapter 373, Agni Purāṇa).

Source: Puranic Encyclopaedia

1a) Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम).—A sādhana for yoga.*

  • * Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 22. 45; V. 10. 15; VI. 7. 40.

1b) Three-fold: its utility; a mode of penance.1 one of the constituents of Maheśvara yoga; ety., the control of prāṇa or wind; three ways are distinguished; mandha, madhya and uttama; the pramāṇa of Prāṇāyāma is 12 mātras; manda is of 12 mātras as also udghātā; madhyama is twice udghātā or 24 mātras; uttama is three udghātās or 36 mātras; uttama produces sveda, kampa and viṣāda; prāṇa is like the cruel wild animal which if tamed becomes soft; if approached direct by yoga, prāṇa becomes disciplined in course of time; having controlled the vāyu one can live as he pleases; there is no sin in his body; prāṇāyāma is equal to all penances and fruits of yajña; all doṣas become burnt as it were by this practice.2 fruits of; śānti, praśānti, dīpti, and prasāda;3 practice of:—draw in au, pray to sun and moon, and sit in svastika or padma posture; halfshut eyes; look at the tip of the nose a little raising the head, neck and the body; hence tamas and rajas look on satva; attaining this yoga, pratyāhāra to be begun, mātra—nimiṣonmeṣa—12 mātras.4

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 8. 44; 23. 8; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 22. 74; Matsya-purāṇa 227. 37.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 10. 78-92.
  • 3) Ib. 11. 4; 18. 17-19.
  • 4) Ib. 11. 12-29; 22. 19; 110. 13.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Dharmashastra (religious law)

These breath-suspensions (prāṇāyāma) are of three kinds, named ‘Kumbhaka’ (total suspension), ‘Pūraka’ (inhaling) and ‘Recaka’ (exhaling). The total suppression of air passing out of the mouth and the nostrils constitutes the (inhalation and suspension); and when the man does not inhale breath but continuously keeps on exhaling, it is called ‘Recaka exhalation.’ (See the Manubhāṣya verse 6.70)

Source: Google Books: Manusmṛti with the Manubhāṣya
Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

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Prāṇāyāma (प्रान्̣आयाम) refers to “control of breath” and is explained by Lakṣmaṇadeśika in his 11th-century Śaradātilaka.—Prāṇāyāma consists basically of inhaling through the left nostril for a duration of sixteen morae, retaining the breath for sixty-four morae and exhaling through the right nostril for thirty-two  morae (16cd–18). This practice is gradually lengthened and also done in reverse order (19). Prāṇāyāma accompanied by mantra repetition, etc., is defined as the “filled” (sagarbha) prāṇāyāma, while the form involving breathing only is said to be the “empty” (agarbha, vigarbha) prāṇāyāma (20–21ab). The first stage of practice is characterized by sweating, the second by trembling and the third by leaving the ground/levitation (21cd–22). Prāṇāyāmashould be practised until the third stage is achieved.

Source: The Śāradātilakatantra on Yoga
Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Ganapatya (worship of Ganesha)

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Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम) refers to the “breath control”, representing one of the possible preliminary rites (upacāra) of a pūjā (deity worship).—Each act in a pūjā is not only physical and/or mental, but also symbolic, cosmic, and spiritual. Sprinkling, sipping, and bathing are symbolic of purification, of the worshipped as well as of the worshipper and the surroundings. Various offerings [viz., prāṇāyāma] symbolize the surrendering of one’s latent tendencies (vāsanā) as expressed in thoughts, words, and deeds.

Source: Google Books: Ganapati: Song of the Self
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Ganapatya (गाणपत्य, gāṇapatya) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Ganesha is revered and worshipped as the prime deity (ishta-devata). Being a minor though influential movement, Ganapatya evovled, llike Shaktism and Shaivism, as a separate movement leaving behind a large body of literature.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

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Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम) is a Sanskrit word meaning "extension of the prāṇa or breath" or, "extension of the life force". The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and "ayāma", to extend or draw out. (Not 'restrain, or control' as is often translated from 'yam' instead of 'ayāma'). The origins of this yogic discipline lies in ancient Bharat (India) and what is known as present day Hinduism.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम, “breath control”) used in yoga practice, especially aṣṭāṅga-yoga (one of the eight parts of the aṣṭanga-yoga system).

Source: ISKCON Press: Glossary

Pranayama is an important form of tapasya. When you practise pranayama, yogic heat is created. This heat or fire of yoga helps in the awakening of kundalini. When the mind is possessed by the powerful force of kundalini, it becomes totally stable. This is sattvic tapas, a process whereby you generate physical heat in your body. This heat is vitally important for meditation, but if you practise pranayama without preparation, it will not fulfil this purpose.

Source: Yoga Magazine: 1981

Prāṇāyama (प्राणायम) refers to the “breath control” representing one of the various preparatory rites performed before pūjā (ritualistic worship of a deity) which aim at the purification of the devotee.—Controlling the breath while repeating mantras mentally is prescribed for the devotee’s inner purification.

Prāṇāyama consists of three stages:

  1. inhaling (pūraka)
  2. holding the breath (kumbhaka)
  3. exhaling (recaka).

The mantras prescribed here are:—1. the syllable oṃ (praṇava), which is to be connected with each of the utterances (vyāhṛti) of the names of the seven worlds, 2. the Gāyatrī (mantra) (i.e. the Sāvitrī) 3. the Gāyatrīsiras (mantra). To these mantras the names of their seers, deities, meters and their employment (viniyoga) are prefixed, the knowledge of which is considered indispensable according to the Vedic tradition (following the commentator Sayaṇa). [...] There are several traditions of connecting the above mentioned mantras with the three stages of prāṇayama.

Source: ACHC: Smarta Puja

In Buddhism

General definition (in Buddhism)

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The Sanskrit word for yogic breath practice is composed of two roots, “prāṇa” and “āyāma.” Prāṇa is the energy of the Universe and is actually what the Universe is made of. Prāṇa, in our own experience, is the “life-force,” without which the body is dead. “Āyāma” means to expand. Therefore, yogic breath practice is aimed at expanding our life-force energy.

Source: Dharma Inc: Adi-Yoga

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

Pranayama in Marathi glossary... « previous · [P] · next »

prāṇayāma (प्राणयाम).—m S Breathing through the nostrils &c. See prāṇāyāma.

--- OR ---

prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम).—m S A rite consisting in breathing through the nostrils with certain closings and openings of them during the mental recitation of the names and attributes of some deity. It comprises the operations named kumbhaka, puraka, & rēcaka.

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम).—m Regulated breathing.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

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Prāṇayama (प्राणयम).—= प्राणायाम (prāṇāyāma) q. v.

Derivable forms: prāṇayamaḥ (प्राणयमः).

Prāṇayama is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms prāṇa and yama (यम).

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Prāṇāyāma (प्राणायाम).—m.

(-maḥ) Breathing in a peculiar way through the nostrils, during the mental recitation of the names or attributes of some deity; it is differently performed. the Vaidikas or followers of the Veda close the right nostril first with the thumb, and inhale breath through the left, then they close both nostrils, and finally open the right for exhalation; the followers of the Tantras close the left nostril first, and exhale also through it; these operations are severally called pūraka, kumbhaka and recaka E. prāṇa breath, ā before, yam to restrain, aff. ghañ .

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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