Pranayama, aka: Prāṇāyāma, Prāṇayama, Prana-yama; 17 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

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

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.


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

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.

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.

Yoga (school of philosophy)

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).

Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

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.

General definition (in Hinduism)

From the Haṭha Yogha 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.” (śl. 70) and “In the ārambha, a Yogī's body becomes divine, glowing, healthy, and emits a divine swell. The whole of his heart becomes void.” (śl. 71)

(Source): Wisdom Library: Hinduism

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

An integral component of most yogic and meditational practice. The aim is to still or control the body and mind by restraining the vital breaths (prāṇa, both widely and narrowly defined), using techniques of patterned breathing. According to Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra, prāṇāyāma is the fourth of the ‘outer limbs’ of his aṣṭāṅga-yoga (‘eight-limbed yoga’), and one of the prerequisites for more advanced practice.

(Source): Oxford Reference: Indian Philosophy

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

In Buddhism

General definition (in Buddhism)

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

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
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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.

Sanskrit-English dictionary

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
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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.

Relevant definitions

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