If you know anything about me yet, it is that I'm a lover of Pranayama or yogic breathing. As many posts as I have written about the benefits of Pranayama and how to actually perform various types of Pranayama, I don't think I have ever laid out the basics.
The word Pranayama is a Sanskrit compound and it has been defined in numerous ways by different authors/commentators/etc.
I personally view Pranayama as the expansion of the breath and individual energy (life force) into the larger interconnected cosmic universe. When we work with our breath, we gain access to our life force energy. Pranayama is the access point to the subtler aspects of yoga as well as being tremendously helpful in developing body awareness, mindfulness, focus and stamina.
Mainstream society is now discovering the benefits of pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises. The various types of Pranayama are accessible to the most beginner students, even those whose physical impairments and injuries prevent most asanas (yoga postures). Whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi, you will find Pranayama to be a powerful tool to help you on your yogic journey.
How to Practice Pranayama
1. Clothing: Clothing should be loose, especially around the abdomen, to ensure the diaphragm is not impeded.
2. Diet: Do not eat heavy meals at least 2-3 hours prior to practicing Pranayama.
3. Time: Dawn is a terrific time to practice yoga and meditation as well as Pranayama because the early morning air is fresh and contains the most amount of Prana (life force). Of course, if this is not feasible, no worries, practice when you can.
4. Posture: Always sit with your back as straight if possible. In addition, keep the chin slightly tucked so that the back of the neck is aligned with the spine. This will help the flow of energy up and down the spine.
5. Illness: Do not practice any advanced Pranayama techniques while ill. Do the easier breathing exercises. It is also fine to stop entirely until you have recovered fully.
6. Effort: Do not strain. Progression should be gentle and systematic. This is even more applicable for any Pranayama that requires you to hold your breath for prolonged periods. If you feel uncomfortable while practicing a Pranayama, stop, take a break and restart again when you feel ready.
7. Cautions: Do not practice any heat generating Pranayama while sitting directly in the sun. This can aggravate the heat in the system (pitta). Similarly, choose Pranayama according to physical conditions and state of your health.
8. Location: Try to practice in a well-ventilated room with plenty of fresh air.
How will you practice your Pranayama today? Do you have any helpful tips that make your Pranayama practice more consistent?
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. "-Martha Graham
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