“Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe.” B. K. S. Iyengar Light on Pranayama
Pranayama lies at the heart of yoga and is defined as the control of the breath, or life force.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, prāṇāyām is made from 2 separate Sanskrit words, prāṇ and āyām, and translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”. Pranayama is the fourth ‘limb’ of Ashtanga Yoga (8 total limbs, including yoga Asana) and mentioned in the Yoga Sutras.
The combination of movement and breath in your yoga posture increases your awareness and the potential for healing and growth (Shobhan Richard Faulds, Kripalu). According to Swami Karunananda, a senior Integral Yoga teacher, “Asana is meditation on the body, pranayama is meditation on the breath and subtle energy currents within us, and then we work with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body and mind and experiencing the higher Self.“
Research has demonstrated the physiological benefits of pranayama to include stress relief (Brown & Gerbarg. Altern Compl Med 2005), improved autonomic function (Pal, Velkumary, Madanmohan. Ind J Med Res 2004), asthma (Vedanthan et al. Allergy Asth 1998), lowered systolic blood pressure and respiratory rate (Upadhyay Dhungel et al. Nepal Med Coll 2008).
As a teacher trained in the Kripalu tradition, I use yoga to develop sensitivity to the body to learn about what makes us tick (or our unconscious drives). Breathing is integral part of our unconscious because “we choose how much we’re going to feel by how much we breathe. When we breathe more deeply, we feel more”. So it’s a good opportunity to slow down and focus on what you are feeling. (Yoganand Michael Carrol)
“With encouraging scientific evidence and positive reports, the prescription for a “pranayama a day” might get just a little bit closer” (kripalu.org).
Hope you enjoyed this introduction… I want to present a few different pranayama techniques this week to help encourage curiosity into your breath! much love.
B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama