By Sarah Powers
Using our natural intelligence to focus on our breath and mobilize the distribution of prana throughout our body is called pranayama, which is an enhancement discipline that involves three aspects: inhalation (puraka); exhalation (rechaka); and the gap between, or suspension of breath (kumbhaka). By varying our respiration and holding our breath, we enhance the quality and mortality of the prana within. When practiced skillfully, yoga exercises for breathing have physical, energetic, and mental benefits. Physically, they help oxygenate the blood and strengthens our digestive, eliminative, circulatory, and respiratory systems. Energetically, a pranayama practice helps balance, concentrate, and harmonize the flow of prana within us. When our energy is imbalanced, our prana is dissipated and weak, often resulting in unpredictable and dissonant emotions that leak out in uncontrolled, chaotic ways. A yogi, on the other hand, is described as someone whose prana is contained within the center of her body. Her emotional life is rich and her mind is clear.
In pranayama, we attempt to reduce the amount of prana that leaks out and enliven the quality of energy existing within us. This is not possible without concentration. Our mind is closely linked to the quality of our prana, and our breath influences our pranic body. When we concentrate on yoga exercises for breathing to balance the subtle (or energy) body, there is a unifying effect on our overall state of being.
Through aligning our minds with our breath, we can experience relaxed alertness in the energy body and mind, a state that has extremely therapeutic effects on the body. The key ingredient is attention. As we watch our breath, we begin to tune in to our capacity for focus and concentration, qualities that arouse meditative awareness. Pranayama is therefore a wonderful practice to sequence before meditation, because it tethers the mind and prana within our body, amplifying our awareness in the present moment.
The breath can be thought of as the catalyst for inner circulation. When we engage in yoga exercises for breathing, we use our diaphragm in an unhurried and conscious way, we assist in enhancing the distribution of prana throughout our bodies. This style of breathing is called Ujjayi (“victorious”) breath and has a number of benefits. As we slow down the rhythm of each breath, it has a soothing effect on our nervous system. This in turn releases the tensions in our body, helping us to feel more relaxed. As we let go, we tune in to the sound of our breathing, helping to diminish the distractions of the mind and leading to more inner quietude. Focusing on yoga exercises for breathing helps increase our ability to concentrate in an effortless manner, preparing the body and mind for deeper integration.
Excerpt from: Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers.
An internationally acclaimed master teacher, Sarah Powers weaves the insights and practices of yoga and Buddhist meditation in an integrated practice that seeks to enliven the body, heart, and mind. Her yoga style blends a yin sequence of long-held poses to enhance the meridian and organ systems, with a yang or flow practice influenced by Viniyoga, Ashtanga, and alignment-based vinyasa teachings. – Read more HERE.