Eight limbs of yoga – pranayama
We can go weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without breath and yet all of our focus and energy goes into food and drink with scant regard for our breath.
In normal everyday breathing we use only 30% of our lung capacity. The result is that our lungs become lazy and we become lazy. By moving the breath our of the unconscious mind and into the conscious mind we can begin to control the breath and our energy levels.
Breath is prana or energy. We get the prana/energy that we need through breathing and when we begin to breathe consciously we begin to control the prana/energy. Patanjali does not mention too much about pranayama except to say that we should inhale, suspend the breath and exhale long and slowly. He speaks of pranayama as a means of preparation for meditation.
The many different types of breathwork that we see in classes today are mostly quite recent additions to hatha yoga and are beneficial in learning to control the breath and move it into our conscious minds but they are not essential in yogic practice. The simplest breath of inhale, suspend and exhale very slowly is enough.
We must remember that yoga is a lifestyle and not only an excercise at the gym. There are enormous benefits to doing many different types of pranayama in class but one must remember that keeping it simple and accessible opens the door to really living yoga.
The simple inhalation, suspension and exhalation done consciously can be done in a mall, in traffic during an altercation. Anywhere, anytime and ultimately that is what we’re trying to do – bring yoga out of the studio, off the mat and into our lives.
Sat Nam xxx