pranayama techniques at Yoga Spirit Studios
When working with beginners one of the more commonly heard questions is, "I don't get the breathing".
Please, if that is you, relax and don't worry about it. You are learning a whole heap of new things, and perhaps the breathing is just a step too far. So for now, let it flow naturally. One of these days it will start to gel.
But you will find a pattern to the breathing instructions. Usually you will find an inhale is used to raise arms, and an exhale to lower them for example. Eventually that becomes second nature and it will seem odd to try to reverse it.
The answer to this comes on two different levels.
The breath phase used to make a particualr movement might be more supportive to the body, allowing you to more effectively engage muscles that will enable you to do the pose safely.
An example here would be doing a movement that needs a lot of core engagement. While it may be possible to do that on an inhale, it is simply more supportive on an exhale.
When exerting, concentrating, or doing something new and potentially hard for you, there is a tendency to hold the breath, which is not good for you when doing postural practice. So that is another reason we keep reminding you to breathe.
Yoga is a at heart a psycho-spiritual practice not a physical workout. Its goal is not to have a buff body, though that may be a side effect, it is to achieve an elevated psycho-spiritual state. And whether you are coming to yoga for that goal, or for the buff body, and whether your teacher is overtly or even consciously teaching a spiritual practice, that is what is happening.
The physical practice of yoga entrains the breath to movement for the purpose of focussing the mind-body and achieving a state that will allow a flow of energy in the body conducive to its psycho-spiritual goals.
If you have a spiritual expereince on the mat that you don't know what to do with, andprānāyāma your current teacher doesn't seem able to respond to, find a teacher who does.
The physical postures you probably associate with yoga are called āsana. (That is a long first A, thus the line over the top of the a, and the two other a's are short. This editting software sometimes makes letters with "diacritical marks"display a bit wonky.) Prānāyāma is another set of yogic practices completely associated with breath and the movement of energy in the body. Notice the long a's indicated by that line and try pronouncing it.
Prānā is a word for the life-force energy that keeps life flowing in our body. It is not synonomous with breath, but is closely associated with breath. Prānā is similar to "chi" in the Chinese system.
Yāma is a word that can mean "constraint" or "control".
So Prānāyāma often is translated as breath-control, and indeed, these practices involve a lot of manipulation of the breath.
There are many prānāyāma practices. In most western yoga settings you will only meet a few. The alternate nostril breath is one, humming bee breath, and many āsana classes are conducted using the ujjāyī, or ocean breath.
Different prānāyāma techiques have different effects in the body. Some are very calming and some are stimulating. In this blog we will make separate posts for different prānāyāma techniques from time to time.
(Author: Tina Shettigara)