Over the last few weeks in class we have been practising Pranayama. But what exactly is Pranayama and how does it work? Well, Pranayama is the yogic science and art of breathing. 'Prana' means life force energy and 'Ayama' means to restrain, control or direct. So by practising these special breathing techniques we begin to direct the breath into areas of the body which helps us to become sensitive and attuned to our own bodies and minds.
There is a whole spectrum of Pranayamas and they all have their own amazing benefits including; the power to soothe and revitalise the body, lower the blood level, help anxiety and depression, calm the mind, focus the mind, help improve sleep patterns and help respiratory diseases.
As breathing patterns are very closely linked to emotional states, it therefore makes sense to take the time out to consciously become more aware of our breath so that we can alter our own emotional state.
B.K.S. Iyengar believes that in normal breathing, the brain initiates the action of inhalation and draws energy to itself. This keeps the brain in a state of tension. When the brain is tense, the breath is constricted. He also goes on to say in his book 'Light on Pranayama' that pranayama "helps to cleanse the energy channels (nadis) of the body and this in turn brings about changes in mental attitude. By breathing from the base of the diaphragm, the neck and facial muscles are relaxed, which in turn loosens their grip over the organs of perception thereby helping the brain becomes less tense. When this happens the student attains concentration, equanimity and serenity".
If you are new to to Yoga the best way to start is with your teacher guiding you in Savasana. Over time, as strength is gained in the Asanas (poses) and stability is gained in Savasana, then the more advanced breathing techniques can be introduced and later we move from lying pranayama to seated pranyama.
As you become a more experienced yogi, you will find that pranayama can become a very important tool in your life - it helps you become more grounded, open and mindful. As the ancient sages said in book HatahaYoga Pradeepika "When the breath is made steady the mind is made steady”.
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I am Adrienne Bagnall -Iyengar yoga teacher, therapist , movement teacher and energy worker. Hope you enjoy my website and blog.