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Prana-Pranayama- Yama-Niyama by Angela Zografou


Many times in my life I thought that I was treated unfairly, that I was unlucky, that things went wrong for me and so on… These things made me really upset. The worst of all was that I would waste all my energy analysing things and asking “why”, something that made me exhausted and very upset. I realised that I had to find the right way to handle these situations; that I had to take responsibility and try to sort myself out instead of trying to change others and the way they behave. I knew that it had to do with finding the right balance between ego and mind and this led to me joining the ‘Step by Step’ class.

I was impressed when we first learned about ‘PRANA’, the vital energy and how correct breathing can charge, control and direct our energy.

We are filled with prana and prana is of vital importance in everything we do. We should not waste it or save it but invest it wisely so it brings about positive changes in our body and mind.

We have to realise that prana exists inside our body. It is in our breath, in our consciousness. The entire universe is a manifestation of prana. Mastering the breath means mastering prana.

We all need to find a profound interest in ourselves so we can connect. With whoever we create a profound interest, whether this is love or jealousy, we create opposite energy and this unlocks our prana. We should always remember though that we must learn to control or prana/energy.

Prana comes through the five elements of nature:

1. Earth: By living in nature, walking on earth barefoot, touching the earth, enjoying nature-the trees, mountains the rivers, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and above all respecting nature.

2. Water: By drinking clean pure water and swimming in the sea and rivers.

3. Fire: by spending time in the sunshine or even by letting the sunshine in through windows and doors.

4. Ether: This element is associated with thoughts. Chanting mantras, being in a positive atmosphere and being in the company of true people enables us to increase prana.

5. Air: By having a consistent pranayama practice, inhaling pure fresh air, living in fresh air and staying away from polluted environments.

How to charge our prana:

The secret is movement through exchange like:

· Mortal and immortal like soul and ego

· Between us and other human beings

· Between us and the elements

There are three ways to move prana:

1. Manually, through the blood

2. Through our nervous system/wires, through moudras

3. Wireless – through the mind

Yoga is a practice that deals directly with prana.

Yogi life starts with:

· Breath – Pranayama

· Yama Niyama good ethos/character

· Diet

The name ‘Pranayama’ derives from the words ‘prana’ meaning vital energy and ‘ayama’ which means stretching/expansion.

Pranayama is basically the science of breath and practicing it will lead to mastering prana. Success can only be achieved by Regulatity, Repetition and Rhythm, essentially by making it a habit.

Through pranayama we can bring together the first three bodies - physical emotional/pranic and mental. These three bodies must be aligned so they are strengthened.

The perfect alignment comes through Yamas and Niyamas.

Yama & Niyama: The Path of Ethical Discipline

Yama means ‘taking a vow’ while niyama means ‘rule of conduct’. Yama and niyama are inter-dependent. Niyama strengthens and safeguards yama.

The basis of yama and niyama is that through ethical principles and the practice of correct conduct we will succeed in yoga and develop a positive personality.

When we become sufficiently advanced in the practices of yamas and niyamas, we can face every temptation by calling in the aid of pure and restraining thoughts. When the mind becomes pure it attains the state of steadiness. The ultimate aim is to perfectly establish in yama-niyama so that Samadhi (the highest state of mental concentration) will come by itself.


The five yamas are the foundation of spiritual life. Following the yamas means sticking to ideas and principles so that the human nature is transformed into a divine nature.

The Five Yamas:

Ahimsa (non-violence) comes first because we must first remove our beastly nature. Ahimsa is perfect harmlessness and love. It is to refrain from the slightest thought of harm to any living creature. It is an attitude of universal benevolence.

Satya: (truthfulness) comes next. Thought must agree with word and word with action. To think of one thing, say another and do another is nothing but dishonesty. By telling lies you pollute your conscience and infect your subconscious mind. Truth means the strength to abide by positive principles.

Asteya: (non-stealing). This is another form of self-restraint. A person should neither steal nor have the intention or desire to steal anything belonging to another person. This applies to speech, thoughts and actions. Essentially one should avoid taking anything that is not freely given.

Brahmacharya: The fourth yama is the practice of continence. When controlled, the sexual energy is transformed into a special spiritual energy and it is stored up in the brain. You should open yourself to higher spiritual consciousness. Feel the divine presence and divine guidance in your life.

Aparigraha: The opposite of parigraha. Parigraha is greed. Aparigraha is a mental state in which the sensual desire is dead. Parigraha leads to anxiety to preserve, fear of loss, hatred, anger, untruthfulness, stealing, etc. Aparigraha puts an end to all these and gives peace and contentment.


Niyama, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying a prayer before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.

The Five Niyamas

Shaucha: Shaucha is purity, both internal and external. External purity generates internal purity. It is very much connected with simplicity.

Santosha: Santosha or contentment is connection with the soul.

Contentment does not mean satisfaction, but willingness to accept things as they are. Contented means to be satisfied with what you have and to be happy in whatever condition you are placed; you do not crave for things you do not have.

Tapas: Tapas means discipline. It also means restraint of the senses and meditation. It leads to control of the mind. Austerities like occasional fasting and observance of silence increase the power of endurance. One must practice physical and mental tapas in order to have a disciplined physical body and a balanced mind in all conditions of life.

Swadhyaya: Swadhyaya or self-study is not just study of scriptures and books but also enquiry into the nature of the self. Swadhyaya is asking the question, “Who am I? This will help you to sort out the personality so the self can come out. Through this you will also get inspired by those who have already done that. Swadhyaya clears doubts, inspires and elevates the mind and helps in concentration and meditation.

Ishwara pranidhana: The ability to surrender to God. This is the practice where one consecrates everything to the higher force. Self-surrender makes the devotee feel the reality of divine grace and God’s readiness to bestow help on him at all times.

When our yoga teacher kept on saying that she would not allow anyone who did not do yoga to join the ‘Step by Step’ class I could not really understand why. Now, a year on into my SBS class I have been able to understand that. Yoga is a practice that works directly with prana. Through yoga and the breathing techniques and discipline of the body and mind we can practice meditation!

Thank you Korina!

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