In Sandhyavandana or even in a simple ritual it is first advised to do Achamana (sip water thrice) and then perform the Pranayama. Pranayama is done to regulate the vital breath called Prana.
Why is it important to regulate the breath???
To know about it let us assume an incidence. A person is in the office looking at files to be cleared and his desk phone rings. He picks up the call his brother is on the line, he says, “Anna, Appa had a fall in the bathroom we have brought him to the hospital, an urgent surgery is required, can you come?” The person now has to go to his boss and get the permission. He reaches the cabin and he knocks the door and enters. He is unable to tell him as he is breathing heavy; the boss asks him to sit down and gives him some water. Why did his breathing become abnormal??? The shocking news he got over the phone made his mind restless and it affected his breathing pattern. We all have experienced it when we are shocked our mind gets restless and our breathing becomes abnormal.
Manas and Prana are interconnected hence when mind is agitated our breathing pattern is altered. Manas (Mind) and Prana (Breath) are like a see saw plank pivoted on the single source called Chaitanya (Consciousness). Mind is seated on one side of the plank in the see saw is very volatile and is hard to control. But on the opposite side is the Breath. By holding the one side of the see saw plank the other can be controlled in the same manner it is easy to have control on Mind by regulating the breath, this observation of Breath is in the method called Pranayama. Pranayama is a unique way of Mind Control.
There is a dualistic movement in the breath, inhalation and exhalation. Thus mind too is dualistic in nature having attraction and repulsion as its dance. This dance of the mind happens only till the vital breath is present in the body. As soon as the Prana leaves the body the Manas also follows. If we observe as the breath enters and leaves the body in the form of inhalation and exhalation there is a natural resonance with the flow of air.
As the air enters there is an unheard sound “So” and as the air exit it is “Ham” the combination of both is “Soham.” This Soham is a mantra which is constantly uttered without our involvement. Soham has two words Sah (That) and Aham (I) which make it “That I am”. Now the continues cycle of Soham which happen unconsciously tend to make it Aham (I) Sah (That) also which is “I am That” and the combination of those two become “Hamsa”
When “Soham” is happening within our body “Hamsa” is happening to the planet we live. Last year NASA released a GIF image of Earth breathing. The vegetation growth depicted the inhalation and exhalation of our earth. In both our body as well as this planet the harmony of “So” and “Ham” can be observed. This harmony is the balance between Shiva and Shakti called Ardhanareeshwara which is reason behind this Soura Mandala (Solar System) to float in the infinite Brahmanada (Cosmos).
This harmonious balance depicted as Ardhanreeshwara in our scriptures, is the unitary Prana, the state of Bliss. If we can merge into that unitary Prana which pervades space and time, we can transcend beyond the breath, which is going beyond the duality of life and death.