In his book Light on Light, B.K.S. Iyengar starts the chapter that deals specifically with Pranayama with the following words”Everyone desires more energy. If energy could be packaged and sold in shops it would be the most successful business ever.Merely taking about energy excites and energizes people.Where can we get it people want to know.Well not in packets and not in shops, because it is first everywhere and second it is free of charge.”LOL p65
PRANA IS UNIVERSAL ENERGY
Energy is given many names. In Sanskrit it is called panic energy. In China it is called Chi, in Japan it is called Ki. Pranayama is mostly translated as breath.Pranayama refers to the extension, expansion, regulation, restraint, control and prolongation of breath but to understand the wonder of pranayama it is helpful to understood it in its widest possible manifestation. Prana is universal life force.Think of an inhalation,when you breath in, as breathing in from the universe and when you exhale, breath out ,as breathing out into the universe.
ANCIENT YOGIS USED THEIR AWARENESS ON THE BREATH IN THE ABDOMEN TO DEVELOP BREATHING PRACTICES TO RE-ENERGIZE THE WHOLE BODY
Donna Hollman explains in “Dancing The Body Of Light” that the ancients understood that the abdomen is the “store house” of energy. It is the place where energy is stored, food is digested there, broken down and distributed to other parts of the body. During normal inhalation they discovered the abdomen lifts up and during exhalation it deflates. Through quickening the breath on the exhalation(as in Kapalabhati and Bhastrika)it is possible to increase heat in that area and use it to re-energize the whole body. ( Dancing The body Of Light Donna Hollman, Orit Sen-Gupta Chapter 5)
ANCIENT YOGIS REALIZED THAT ENERGY COULD BE BROUGHT FROM THE ABDOMEN TO THE BRAIN VIA THE SPINAL COLUMN TO ALTER THE PRACTITIONERS STATE OF MIND-THINK OF PRANA AS ENERGY THAT CARRIES AWARENESS
The ancient yogis through their study of their breath discovered that at the end of each inhalation and exhalation there is a natural pause.Through investigating the pauses , prolonging the pauses they discovered that a vacuum is created on the exhalation that pulls air up the spine to the brain which has the effect of substantially altering the consciousness of the practitioner.
THROUGH THE PRACTICE OF PRANAYAMA THE BREATH THE BRIDGE BETWEEN THE BODY AND MIND ……A TOOL TO EXPLORE THE WORKINGS OF THE MIND
Through the practice of pranayama we have the means to explore the mind and to ultimately bring the mind into a quiet place. As B.K.S. Iyengar notes in Light on Life the various breathing techniques are meditative in origin and in effect.. Whether one is lying or sitting to practice pranayama the senses are drawn inward away from external disruptions. In practices such as Bhramari or Ujjayi the mind is able to be drawn inward through listening to the sound in the throat.
PRANAYAMA CALLS US TO ACCOUNT–THE BREATH IN THE WORDS OF B.K.S. IYENGAR BECOMES “THE KING OF THE MIND”
For most of us it comes as a total shock at just how demanding pranayama is. After all we all breath without giving it a second thought. So why should pranayama be so hard? Because Pranayama is not normal breathing. It is mindful breathing. You need will power to start and you need will power to continue because many find it not only difficult at the beginning but also boring(compared to practicing asana). You need to appreciate that you cannot force the breath to lengthen or suspend the breath. It takes time to strengthen and train the body to accept the extra energy that the practice will deliver and it takes time to subdue the ego and accept where you are at each moment, each day.
START A DAILY PRACTICE . COME TO CLASS. PRACTICE WHAT YOU LEARN IN CLASS
I think it is really important to try to practice daily. It doesn’t have to be long. But the more you practice the less likely you will be attached to results, less disillusioned on the days when you feel the breath doesn’t come easily. Some days you will leave the practice feeling refreshed and calm and other days less so. Start with Supported Savasana after practicing some restorative poses that both open your chest and quieten your nervous system. Aim for 5-8 minutes in Savasana and practice 5-8 minutes in Ujjayi and then rest in Savasana.
YOUR BREATH CAN BECOME A TRUE FRIEND THAT IS THERE FOR YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
Your pranayama practice can tell you so much about yourself. It helps you see the effects of your thoughts and actions. It lets you see what are your habits and appreciate how it may be possible to change some of those habits and thoughts overtime.