'Prana' means vital life force, an energy that drives this very life. 'Pranayama' means regulation or control of this breathing process. Pranayama becomes a natural first step for a yogi before he or she prepares to enter the state of meditation.
Can I practice Pranayama?
Anyone can practice simple Pranayama. Observing the breath itself is a great tool for calming down our mind. In sahaja pranayama, one simply *observes* the inhalation, exhalation and the suspension of breath that naturally happens after exhalation. If one is relaxed and mindful, there will be no urge to inhale immediately after exhalation. That is the point of meditation, even if that point is only for 2 secs. With daily practice, one will be able to increase to 5-10 secs. That is the point of "pratyahara" - total withdrawal. One should never extend this cessation of breath beyond one's natural cycle.