If you are interested in the other dimensions of Yoga practice, beside the physical and gymnastical approach with poses, you certainly noticed and heard about the 8th limbs of Yoga.
They help us through our journey in different stages towards a healthy body and a happy mind. They are called the Patanjali’s yoga sutras and are an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for our yoga practice.
In 4th position sandwiched between yamas, niyamas, asanas and pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, we have pranayama or breath control.
In all the classic styles, pranayama is in the heart of yoga, and yet, it is never taught or understood properly. In styles like Gitananda or Satyananda, pranayama is the core and everything derives from that beautiful practice.
Among our physical practice and meditation, pranayama has a very important place and should be practiced daily. Let not forget that one meaning of yoga is ”union”. The 3 elements of our yoga practice work together and shouldn’t be separated. If one is missing, the others 2 are in trouble and unbalanced. Pranayama makes that connection between the physical body and the subtle body!
It also needs to be taught by a highly qualified teacher who will take you through that breathing technique carefully and safely. Pranayama can bring you healing and happiness but if done in the wrong way, can bring you un-comfort and illness. Need to be taken seriously and with a lot of patience. Enjoy !
Here are an introduction and straightforward explanation: Pranayama or breath control:
by William J.D. Doran
“Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized. In yoga, we are concerned with balancing the flows of vital forces, then directing them inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra.
Pranayama, or breathing technique, is very important in yoga. It goes hand in hand with the asana or pose. In the Yoga Sutra, the practices of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self-discipline for the mind and the body, respectively. The practices produce the actual physical sensation of heat, called tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become calmer.x As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing “the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration.”