The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen
For several thousand years, yogis have drawn on the powerful practice of pranayama, a technique of controlling the breath to maximize prana or life energy. Pranayama has been practiced to rejuvenate the body and as a means of self-study and self-transformation. While most yoga practitioners today focus on asanas, or body postures, a growing number of people are learning the complementary practice of pranayama to deepen and enrich their practice.
The Yoga of Breath is a guide to learning the fundamentals of pranayama and incorporating them into an existing yoga practice. Rosen’s approach is easy to follow with step-by-step descriptions of breath and body awareness exercises accompanied by clear illustrations. The book also covers the history and philosophy of pranayama, offers useful practice tips, and teaches readers how to use props to enhance the exercises.
You’ve probably known that when your breathing changes your mood changes as well. If you’re hyperventilating, you should be feeling anxious, and when you started to feel relaxed, your breathing responds by being leisurely and relaxed, too. But what if the thing you’ve known about breathing is wrong? What if, just like your mood has an impact on your breathing, your breathing has on your mood too?
Like you’ll see in this summary, the way you are breathing during the day has a great effect on your psychological and physical health. However, sadly, lots of us breathe unwell. That causes significant issues for our goodness.
This summary will show you the way of taking better breaths to get a happier, and healthier you. You’ll discover interesting health information and straightforward exercises. Consider all of these chapters as your guide for breath control during yoga for beginners. If you follow the guidance, it’ll help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed for the rest of your life.
Chapter 1 – There is a correct and incorrect way of breathing.
What would you suggest to someone who should calm down? You can say to him take a deep breath. People who do yoga have known about the connection between breathing and awareness for centuries. Actually, controlling your breath is a fundamental component of the yoga tradition. That practice is named as pranayama which is originated from the Sanskrit words Prana, indicating “breath,” and Ayama, indicating “control.”
Pranayama is believed to arise from Brahman priests who are ancient holy men who adored singing hymns named as Vedas. Those priests recognized that if they controlled their breath while they’re singing, they could recite the Vedas more intensely. Above all, breathing in different ways enables them to change their mind-state.
Nevertheless, the gains of practicing pranayama exceed early worship. We live in the world of stress where many of us spend a lot of time over a desk. Pranayama may present a delightful medicine to anxiety and unwell health.
Most of the time wrong breathing arises from bad posture, weak respiratory muscles, or just chronic anxiety.
But what does that poor breathing look like?
Ineffective breathers breathe quickly, slight breaths, and they prefer to use their mouths for breathing. We’ve all gone through moments of panic and hyperventilation, however, breathing inefficiently for all the time may produce significant issues for your health. Quick, slight breaths reduce the carbon dioxide amount in your circulatory system. That reduces the pace of oxygen circulation in your body and brain. The consequence? Poor oxygenation causes rising or abnormal heartbeat and chronic anxiety. It may even turn you into a distracted and forgetful person.
In contrast, efficient and right breathing makes you feel immediately revitalized.
People who breathe efficiently take slow, streamlined breaths. Contrary to poor breathers, that breathe from their upper chest, people who efficiently breathe, use their entire diaphragm and torso while breathing. Also, they use the nose, instead of the mouth while breathing. Nose breathing reduces the pace of breathing, and it enables your lungs to get lots of oxygen with every breath. That puts your body to a healthful oxygen-to-carbon-dioxide proportion, and it provides you a clearer head and a calmer state.
In the following part, you’ll get started your pranayama journey for healthfuller breathing.
Chapter 2 – You should start your pranayama journey with a calm mind.
The meaning of Pranayama is learning the way of controlling your breath, but that’s not the only thing that ancient practice covers. As a component of the yoga tradition, pranayama is completed by specific rituals that you need to follow. Those basic rituals will become a key part of your practice just like control of breath.
The most primary pranayama rituals are about harmony, time, and space.
Yoga tradition highlights the significance of regularity. You should have a goal of practicing pranayama every day, but you may skip one or two days if you have to. The best time for practicing pranayama is the Brahma hour – that’s the time right before dawn. Through the Brahma hour, your mind and body becomes calm and is awake from sleep, and the atmosphere is loaded with cosmic energy. If that early morning tide routine doesn’t fit you, then you can select a different time. The most crucial thing is practicing at the exact same time every day.
You should commit a physical area for your pranayama routine. Pick a room that makes you peaceful and safe. Go to your practice with loose, comfy outfits, and an empty stomach, in that way digestion can’t distract you.
Beginning in a calm way is important since focusing on your breath is hard if you’re feeling mad or unhappy. You can calm yourself by adding a short opening routine to the beginning of every session. Begin that ritual by viewing east. That is the way that the sun rises, and additionally, yogis believe that the east is the container of the world’s essence. Next, spend a little time in silence. Use this time to think about how you will dedicate your practice to the divine.
More practical things are also significant. Remember that you should be breathing through your nostrils during your pranayama routine. The meaning of it is you’ll need to clean your sinuses if they are full. You can do that by preparing a nasal wash with salt and warm water. Apply that wash with a neti pot which is a small ceramic pot has a long spout.
Additionally, keeping a diary of your pranayama journey is a great option. Following your practice with that method will allow you to arrange sessions on the way, maintaining things that are working out for you, and dismissing things that are not.
Chapter 3 – Your witness sees beyond your feelings and recognizes your true self.
Since you’re a new student of pranayama, it’s likely to be excited about starting your practice – inspired to improve your breathing, and your feeling. Lots of excited students begin their pranayama journey with complex breathing practices. That is an issue since they’ve not yet developed the basis for their practice. Therefore, before you hurry for your journey, remember: to understand the place you desire to arrive, first, you need to recognize where you are.
Before you start to pranayama, relax with a practice that will support you to get more things about your mind and also your body.
For doing that, get help from the witness. The witness is a friend that helps you see yourself in an objective way. That person doesn’t make comments on you and hasn’t any expectance.
The witness support you to realize that your feelings and opinions are completely temporary – they cannot describe you. You’re likely to tempt to examine or judge those temporary situations that you discover on your own. The witness guides you to just admit them rather. Let them enlighten you and later fly again.
If you already haven’t figured out, that witness is not a different person. Instead, it is a different form of seeing the world that you can control all on yourself.
So in which way can you connect to your internal witness?
Begin with making yourself relaxed on a chair, and closing your eyes. Now imagine that you’re stepping away from your own body and staring at yourself from that little distance. Think you’re staring at a fascinating mystery to be solved. Now run that outside eye all over your body from your toes to the top of your head. How does feeling each section of yourself, from your skin to your back to your front? What do you realize about the way your body breathes?
The witness practice is helpful since it makes you realize that the way you normally breathe. Since you’re a new student, you might be realized until now that you weren’t earlier conscious about your authentic breathing. You can find out that some ways of your breathing are ineffective or useless too. One more benefit, you can even observe that after you’ve seen your poor breathing ways, they begin to get better on their own.
Chapter 4 – For better breathing, you should map the interior areas of your body.
It would be silly to set a journey without having a map. Exactly the same is valid for your pranayama journey. However, you cannot purchase your pranayama map from any store. Rather, you should be making it your own, with a tiny touch from your witness.
At the beginning of your pranayama routine, you will map your body’s surface even the sections you can’t look at.
The reason for it is when you breathe without awareness of your body’s internal sections some issues are born. Thinking of your body as something flat and two-dimensional is not a great idea. This way of thinking ends up in slight breaths that don’t reach deep inside your body, making you hungry for air.
You make that through lying in Shavasana. The English equivalent of Shavasana is a corpse posture. That yoga pose requires lying on your back and being motionless as possible as mentally and also physically like you are a dead body. After going into the corpse posture, connect to your witness. Now you are able to start mapping your internal regions.
One of the most significant internal areas to map is your rib cage.
Your ribs constantly move during your inhale and exhale. Actually, if our ribs didn’t move, we couldn’t breathe. And even more, they go in all directions – not only down-up, but also in-out, and back- forth. The moves are led by your respiratory muscles, like your scalenes and your intercostals. Unfortunately, lots of us have inelastic ribs that can’t move well, usually due to poor posture or emotional stress.
For building an imaginative map of your rib cage, you just need three or four minutes for watching the movement of your ribs. Starting from the bottom ribs, put your hands above the ribs that are in front of your chest. Eventually, raise your hands upward approaching the top of your rib cage, crossing your hands over. Your left hand should be touching the right side of your body and conversely. How does your chest cavity, named as your thorax, shape while you breathing? Did you get an idea about its width, height, and breadth? After you’ve got some information about the way of your rib cage’s move, feel free to note that data in your pranayama journal.
Chapter 5 – The way of you using your nostrils has a great effect on your mindfulness.
Until the current time, you’ve met your witness and get a map of your body. Yet you’ll necessitate somethings more to begin your pranayama journey in serious. A basic but crucial pranayama tool is nasal stability. Studying that routine will benefit you while getting ready for more complicated techniques further on your journey.
Putting your nostrils into balance is crucial since your breath does not leak evenly into both of your nostrils. At any random moment, you are principally breathing within your right or left nostril, and the opposite one is slightly blocked. That phenom is named as nostril dominance. Without being aware you swap between nostrils approximately every two hours.
While breathing using your left nostril, your right brain is more effective. According to the yoga tradition, your right brain is correlated to Ida-Nadi which is known as your more peaceful and feminine part. Contrarily, if you breathe within your right nostril, it’s your left brain that’s the dominating one. The meaning of it is that Pingala-Nadi, your wild and masculine part, becomes more active.
Significantly, yogis do not attempt to change the nostril they’re using to the other one. Instead, they alter how they breathe so that both nostrils are used concurrently. That equilibrium is a fundamental component of yoga. Actually, the word “yoga” is usually explained as “balance.” Balancing the airflow of both nostrils reduces the thoughts, opinions, and feelings that disturb our awareness.
Yogis equalize their nostrils with a crutch-shaped staff, named as a danda, in a traditional way. Yet you may gain nasal balance via using just your hands. Primarily, push your finger upon one side of your nose, in that way the nostril on that side is blocked. After, take a breath with using the nostril that’s still open. Mentally take note of the easiness the air passes through that nostril. Later do the same method for the other nostril. The nostril in which air passes most simply is your dominating one. Now, on your dominant side, turn your hand into a fist, and hold that fist below your armpit on your non-dominant side. Benefit from your arm for pressing down on that fist for a few minutes. Thereafter, push the sides of your nose again. Hopefully, you will realize that your nostrils have been equalized.
Chapter 6 – You may do pranayama via slowing down sections of your breathing cycle.
In Sanskrit, the meaning of ujjayi is “to conquer.” So the following tool is ujjayi pranayama, also named as Conqueror’s breath. For doing Conqueror’s breath accurately, you should proudly puff out your chest the same as a military general. That will make your lungs used their full capacity.
For getting ready for Conqueror’s breath, sit up straight or lie down. Primarily, equalize your nostrils via the clenched fist technique. After that is done, benefit from your witness to watch the way you are breathing. At that part, you should not attempt to control your breathing. Rather, only observe what’s already going on – flaws and everything. If you are able to, don’t see yourself as breathe – imagine your body as breathing you.
After a few moments later of realizing your usual breathing, it’s the moment of correcting it. Focus on reducing the speed of your breathing. As you slow your inhales and exhales down, think that how does my frame of mind changed? Do you see a difference after you started to inhale more slowly? And how is that while you slowly exhaling?
After you have asked yourself those questions, you are ready to begin Conqueror’s breath.
Begin your breathing deep within your body. Imagıne of your breath as an elevator that is going up. It rises from the basement level – and that would be your groin. Later it goes to the top floor the attic, placed in your uppermost torso. While you breathing in, work on expanding your chest onward your breastbone, and your collarbone. Expanding those parts will generate more area for your breath to enter. Realize that, while you’re breathing, you begin to feel lighter, just like a balloon that could fly away. You may equalize that lightness by anchoring your breathtaking to the ground. For doing that, stretch your tailbone approaching the floor as far as probable.
Taking that big breath should make you feel energized and prepared for anything. Actually, according to the yoga tradition, breathtaking is considered as the way to action, known as the pravritti marga. Imagine your inhalation as a basic physical activity that stimulates your body and also your mind. Think that at each breath, you are filling your body with the spirit of the whole creation.
Chapter 7 – For understanding your breathing in a better way, divide it up into parts.
Since you only think about doing something it wouldn’t be done by you, not all the time. Usually, it is in that gap between considering and making it that we reflect on ourselves and the thing we actually desire. To paraphrase, that gap provides us with better awareness about ourselves. That is valid for breathing too. If you conceive about breathing, but then choose to postpone or interrupt it, you reach better awareness about your breath.
That method is named as viloma pranayama or Against-the-Grain breath. It is the opposite of the way you normally breathe. Ordinarily, while you are breathing there won’t be an interruption. However, the time you breathe using the Against-the-Grain method, you interrupt your breathing. You stop it and let go intermittently.
So, for every step of your breathing in, a different section of your torso is loaded with air. And with every step of your breathing out, a different section of your torso empties. To understand the time for starting and the time for stopping breathing, you’ll require to break your torso into parts. Imagine if one part is running from the bottom of your collarbone to right below your armpits, for example. A different part may start from your armpits and end up your breastbone. You can divide your breathings up. Yet the time that you’re starting that method, it’s best to only divide up one or the other in every session.
If you divide your breath up, observe the way it influences your state of consciousness. Does your mind-state vary according to whether you are actively breathing or stopping? Your consciousness may vary throughout your break times. Try to find out if you can keep that changed state of consciousness even while you start breathing again.
Against-the-Grain breath is very effective since it gives you high awareness about your breathing. And it assists you to manage your breathing. Thanks to that method, you’ll see that every breath has a beginning, a middle point, and a conclusion. You’ll recognize that your breaths are ended with little breaks that give chances for consideration. By choosing those breaks and points of reflection with conscious, instead of letting them be automatic, you’ll get better information about your breathing. And you’ll see how every section of the process influences your consciousness.
Poor posture and emotional anxiety may cause poor breathing customs. In return, ineffective breathing creates more anxiety and emotional discomfort. The consequence is a vicious cycle of bad well-being and wrong breathing. However, you can manage to control your breath, and your mindstate, via practicing pranayama. With patience and commitment, you’ll begin to take better breaths, assuring that your body and mind are energized during the day.
Make pranayama in a pair.
You may consider that having a friend joining you while you practicing pranayama as useful. That yoga partner can observe you as you doing postures and completing exercises. She can tell you the time that your body is misaligned or bent. Your partner may put her hands on your rib cage while you breathing, and take note of the things she feels too. In that way, she may provide you feedback about the positive changes you could make on breathing so far.