What is Pranayama?
“Practiced regularly, pranayama will change your life.” Gary Kraftsow
In a nutshell, pranayama is a yoga practice that makes us more aware of our breath and the effect the breath has on body, mind and spirit. Pranayama is usually done in a seated position and works with the four parts of the breath: inhalation; pause after inhalation; exhalation; pause after exhalation. Both art and science are involved when working with these four parts and combining them in ways that achieve a variety of effects based on your particular needs and goals.
Breathing during asana practice is different from pranayama practice – although they are certainly related. Emphasizing breath during asana movement strengthens the effect of the asana; makes the practice more energizing, relaxing or balancing; and develops breath capacity in preparation for pranayama. Of course, pranayama also emphasizes breath but it is practiced seated. The body is still so breathing patterns can be managed and intensified in ways not possible in asana practice.
Pranayama usually follows asana although it does not have to. Because asana practice prepares the body for sitting; expands the capacity of the breath and prepares the mind for focusing on the breath, I’ve found that my pranayama experience is much richer coming after my asana practice.
My yoga teacher says that practicing pranayama regularly for a year will change your life and I’ve found that to be true. Just be sure you have a qualified teacher to guide you.
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