Breath of Life: An Overview of Pranayama
In this lesson, we will cover what pranayama is and how it can be used to manage and optimize energy in the body and achieve a more balanced mind.
Video Commentary: Breath (Pranayama)
Pranayama – vital energy regulation.
The fourth limb of yoga practice is pranayama. Pranayama, also called breath-work, involves the regulation of the vital energy in our body.
Prana refers to the vital energy in each atom of each cell of our body. Ayama means without restriction or expansion. So prana ayama refers specifically to the practice of expanding the vital energy in our body.
It is through our breath, that we are able to access and elevate this prana.
Pranayama promotes health and vitality in the body, increases focus, balances emotion, and promotes a feeling of connectedness.
Video: Yogic Breathing
How to do Yogic Breathing
- Sit up with a straight back
- Relax the body and deepen the breath
- Inhale the ribs come out
- Exhale the stomach comes in
- Imagine you get wider on the inhale and longer on the exhale
In the words of B.S.K. Iyengar, “the breath is the king of the mind”. So, if we want to have better control over our mind, we can do this by practicing ‘yogic breathing’.
Yogic breathing is long, deep, and steady.
In our day-to-day lives the stresses and maybe even fear can produce a shallow breath that doesn’t give us the energy and the projection that we need.
The breath is a kind of giving and receiving. We give our projection – our communication, our creation in the world – and we receive inspiration.
By making our breath deep and full we can give ourselves the energy that we need – the energy that will improve our circulation and our health and also our ability to do our best everyday.
So we’ll practice yogic breathing.
You can place the hands at the base of the ribcage, along the side of the abdomen, with the thumbs at the lowest rib.
Here, your current inhale is based on your last exhale so we’ll begin with the exhale.
Exhaling out feeling the rubs knit together and the navel point come in and up.
On the inhale, you can feel the belly come out and the ribs become wide.
So, on the inhale you can imagine you’re becoming wider and on the exhale that you become longer. Expanding in both directions.
So here we’ll just practice for a minute.
1. Inhaling, ribs come out.
2. Exhaling, ribs come in and the stomach is tight.
Now breathing naturally.
How do you feel now compared to just a minute or two ago?
Remember to sit up straight so that you can access the full range of the breath.
It doesn’t matter how you spend your time or what your occupation is, practicing this yogic breathing will make you better.