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Pranayama: Control of the Breath

June 18, 2009

Prana is life force.  It is our vital energy and our breath.  It sustains life and creation and permeates all the layers of ourselves and the world.
Yama means control.
Pranayama is control of the breath for the sake of going deeper within and gaining mastery over the body and mind. It is the 4th limb if Ashtanga yoga.
When we practice pranayama, we focus and regulate the breath, taking control of those involuntary actions within the body. When you focus your attention on the breath, the mind has no choice but to follow, bringing one-pointed attention and concentration. The benefits of practicing prananyama are multi-fold, ranging from the purification of the gross, physical body to the toning of the subtle, spiritual self. Patanjali writes, “Tatah ksiyate prakasavaranam. As its result, the veil over the inner Light is destroyed” (Yoga Sutras II:52), meaning that pranayama helps to destroy the illusion of separateness and give way to the shining light of union within each of us.
In the practice of yoga there are many pranayama practices, like Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril breathing), Kappalalbhati (Skull Shining breath), an Ujjayi (Victorious breath).  Ujjayi breath should be practiced while doing asana, whereas Nadi Shodhana and Kappalbhati should be practiced while sitting in a meditative seat before or after the asana practice. Watch the video above for super clear instructions on how to practice Nadi Shodhana right now.
If you want to begin to tap into breath control and begin to harness your mind and strengthen your body through pranayama, begin to pay attention to your breath.  Try to even out your inhales and exhales and slow down your breathing without straining.  Notice how when your stressed or nervous, your breath becomes very shallow and taking a deep breath can instantly set the mind a ease.

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