“Yoga primarily works with the energy in the body through the science of pranayama or energy-control. Prana also means ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how to still the mind through breath-control and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques and show the yogi or yoga practitioner how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite.”
— Paramahansa Yogananda
I love gloomy weather but I certainly did not want to get out of bed this morning. It’s been cloudy, raining, dreary, drizzling, or overcast for a few days and gloomy weather, alarm clocks, and Saturdays don’t go together.
I quickly changed into my workout clothes. Headed to the bathroom and spent almost five minutes just to freshen up. I picked up my yoga mat and started my Pranayama.
Before practicing the different asanas/poses, one should always sit for a mindful meditation. The object of Pranayama practice is to emphasize the inhalation, the exhalation, or retention of the breath. Emphasis on the Inhalation is called Puraka Pranayama. Rechaka Pranayama refers to a form of Pranayama in which the Exhalation is lengthened while the Inhalation remains free. Kumbhaka Pranayama focuses on breath retention. In Kumbhaka Pranayama, we hold the breath after Inhalation, after Exhalation, or after both.
Pranayama or practicing breathing exercise would be safe if you are supervised by an instructor or a yoga guide/teacher. You should also consult your doctor before you get into any serious breathing exercise especially if you are suffering from breathing problems like asthma or shortness of breath. I have asthma although I particularly believe that Pranayama has helped me a lot in normalizing my breathing.
Remember that Pranayama should be satisfying and enjoyable. Therefore, it should not be practiced in a way that will push you beyond your limits. Some may think that Pranayama is all about how long you can hold your breath, which is incorrect. It is about controlling one’s breath in a way that it comes out smoother and more relaxed, making exhalation an important part of Pranayama.
If you are emotionally upset, agitated or tired, you should not practice Pranayama . You must be relaxed before doing it so that you will not immediately get exhausted or run out of breath.
Gunaji, author of “Scientific and Efficient Breathing”, recommends the following General Principles of Pranayama:
- Breathing Exercises should never be pushed to the point of weariness or exhaustion.
- They should not be merely mechanical.
- There should be no hurry or haste.
- Exercises should not be repeated too often. There should always be variety and change in the exercises.
- Attention should be concentrated on the exercise while it is being performed.
- Exercise should always be gentle and nonviolent.
- Breathing should not be jerky or irregular, but smooth, steady, and continuous.
“The smoothness of your breath is of supreme importance in practicing Pranayama. If at some instance during practice, your breath suddenly becomes rough or uneven, stop and relax. Then, slowly allow your breathing to return to its normal pace.
Some breathing techniques may induce dizziness or even make you lose consciousness. If you start to feel dizzy or think you are about to faint, stop immediately. Relax, and next time you do that certain exercise, be extra careful. Try to assume a position that may be more applicable to that particular breathing exercise.
Also, remember to practice Pranayama in a place where there is fresh, clean air and no smoke or other chemicals are present in the atmosphere. This is because in Pranayama, air will be pulled deeper into your lungs, so the air needs to be very clean. Remember also to practice it in an area with room temperature; conditions that are too hot or too cold may affect the regularity of your breathing.
These are just some basic guidelines to keep your practice of breathing exercises safe. However, it is always best to have a Yoga instructor with you every time you practice. Keep in mind not to do Pranayama up to levels that may make you uncomfortable, and to always do things slowly and carefully.”
Three things I have learned in my journey:
1. We need to remember to breathe, to take a break once in a while. Life is not a race.
2. The eyes are closed, but the heart is open.
3. it’s so much more beyond the mat.
Namaste from Manila!