The fourth branch of Ashtanga Yoga is Pranayama.
PRANA means vital or cosmic energy.
AYAMA means to lengthen or restrain.
The term is usually translated as "breath control", whereas it actually means "developing awareness of breath".
This awareness produces a subtle purification of the physical body (the five elements) and the Tanmatras (the subtle body). These in turn affect Manas (the emotional or conditioned mind), allowing the spirit to move upwards. Whereas if control takes over, unfortunately, this process reinforces the downward movement of Ahamkara (principle of individuality) and Manas because it accentuates the feeling of being "the author of one's actions" or the feeling of "I".
Pranayama exercises enable you to develop your respiratory capacities and energetic awareness, and no longer allow yourself to be influenced by the mind. It's a step towards meditation.
We studied the art of pranayama with real understanding with Srivatsa Ramaswami
who studied for 33 years with T. Krishnamacharya.
Ramaswami is T. Krishnamacharya's longest-standing student.
Asanas, bandhas and mudras emphasize the importance of keeping the muscles and nadis of the lower body (mula) in good tone. According to yogic theory, many important nadis are located in the anal and pelvic region, and it is therefore repeatedly stressed that we keep this area in good condition. In addition, this is the area of the sexual glands (prostate, uterus, ovaries), and good muscle tone is particularly essential for proper functioning. Without these asanas, bandhas and mudras, these areas are never exercised.
The 3 main bandhas (locks) - Mula Bandha - Uddiyana Bandha - Jalandhara Bandha. These are energetic points that engage the circulation and channelling of energy. Prana is directed by currents called Vayus, of which there are 5, which dissipate energy upwards and downwards. The bandhas conserve this energy so that it doesn't dissipate. Without the activation of these bandhas in the breathing exercises, there could be harmful effects on the practitioner's energy, which is why it's important to practice asanas in order to have commitment and a flexible spine.
Pranayama reduces guna tamas (physical and mental inertia) and, together with asana practice, helps to cleanse the raja system. The result is that you become very sattvic - the ideal condition for the enriching process of meditation.
The practitioner can achieve some extraordinary influences on his or her own physiological functions. The basic factor in yoga is the breath. The respiratory function can be influenced more easily than any other vital function, and the yogi uses it as the first step in influencing the nervous system.
Pranayama has many physical benefits. It expands the chest, improves vital capacity and helps to slowly overcome many illnesses such as bronchial asthma, shortness of breath and irregular breathing. Together with bandhas and mudras, it improves blood circulation to and within the heart.
Pranayama has physiological advantages. The respiratory function is both voluntary and involuntary. Normally, our breathing is shallow and involuntary. In pranayama, a deliberate attempt is made to bring the breath under greater voluntary control, thus bringing many other involuntary conditions of the body and mind under voluntary control. The mind is trained and adapted to follow the breath and thus attain the capacity for Ekagra (the 4th state of focus, stable, effortless concentration), which is essential for all other mental and spiritual realizations.
II.52. Through the practice of Pranayama, the veil of tamas (heaviness; darkness) that covers the clarity of the mind, is removed.
- Yoga Sutra Patanjali
Yogic breathing exercises
● Nadi Shodhana / Anuloma Viloma
● Sitali et Sitkari Pranayama
● Surya Bhedana Pranayama
● Chandra Bhedana Pranayama
● Ujjayi Pranayama
● Anuloma Ujjayi Pranayama
● Pratiloma Ujjayi Pranayama
● Viloma Ujjayi Pranayama
● Mantra Pranayama
● Bhramari Pranayama