Pranayama question


#1

Ok, here’s a real stupid, rookie question. I practice Pranayama (which, by the way, I’m not yet sure what it’s for), and then Asana. Are these practices always meant to be separate? Is there any time when you are doing pranayama simultaneously with Asana? Or are they always practiced separately?

Also any really basic, practical answers or info as to what Pranayama is meant to do, would be really appreciated. I’m not after big, long traditional answers with sutra quotes, but just practical, easy to understand answers. Thanks kindly.


#2

I believe the various kumbhakas work on multiple levels.

  1. the gross form - the tangible air - the act of saturation of the gross body by holding in the air helps to work out toxins stored in the viscera. The blood becomes more oxygenated. Cells love oxygen. They work better at doing their job when they get lots of oxygen. It is said by some that in a highly oxygenated environment disease has a difficult time taking hold.

  2. The subtle form - the retention and deep regulation works to remove impurites from the nadis/subtle channels [B]and[/B] the viscera.

  3. Certain regulations of the essential breath also have a profoundly calming effect on the agitations of the mind which is useful for meditation.

Try it. If your angry or upset of in a poor mood, if you practice 15 minutes or more of retentions your disposition may change . . . at least it does for me.

I also consider the retentions as a form of an austerity, a tapas, a means of removing the so called Karmic Obscurations.

In terms of incorporation into asana? Why not?

For example as one lies on the floor on their belly and before reaching back and making the Bow form why not stick the curled tounge out and suck air into the belly / manipura? before or during.

if in the cobra/snake/upward dog why not suck air into the belly? and gaze at the bridge of the nose and toss in a little Om japa?

or if making the forward fold form why not bring awareness and breath to the forehead or top of head or back of head and throw in the some Om japa?

as I see it for asana to have the most profound effects combine with your learning, discrimination and intuition all external limbs: asana, essential breath control, recitation of sound/japa, and mudra?


#3

2 good books I have in my library are Light on Pranayama by Iyengar and Pranayama Beyond the Fundamental by Richard Rosen. Both very good.

I also practice Kundalini Yoga and “Breath of Fire” (Agni-Prasana) is very important during the asana practice. (air is pulled in and pumped out rhythmically and with little effort. Not to be confused with Kapalabati or Bhastrika) In certain poses, breath of fire is used to charge nerve plexuses and glandular centers. You can practice specific pranayama before or after your asana practice but remember yoga links the body, breath and mind. Ujjayi pranayama is used in yoga styles like Ashtanga and Power during asana practice.


#4

The simple answer is while all Yoga asanas use breathing, pranayama are very specific breathing exercise to be practiced on their own.

What are they for? Take 3 very deep breaths(inhale and exahle) in a row and notice the effects. It will become very clear what they are for.

I will forewarn you though pranayama is when you are getter deeper into the spiritual. If you practice 20-40 min of pranayama everyday for a few
months they will create radical changes in your mind-body. It will rouse Kundalini, send more energy into your Chakras, you are likely to feel energy
or electric like currents around your body. In some cases it can even awaken spiritual powers.

After pranayama meditation will follow.


#5

[QUOTE=YogiAdam;34860]
Also any really basic, practical answers or info as to what Pranayama is meant to do, would be really appreciated. I’m not after big, long traditional answers with sutra quotes, but just practical, easy to understand answers. Thanks kindly.[/QUOTE]

I got a B on the ‘quiz’ I had for pranayama, so let’s see if I can explain it in very simple terms.

Pranayama is when you use techniques to consciously control inhalation and exhalation, rather than breathing naturally. It it said that prana, (which is the vital force that is closely associated with the purusha or pure inner self), flows through the body in specific channels. If the channels are blocked by tension or bad juju (whatever obstacles you have), then prana goes outside of the body and is no longer doing it’s job, facilitating the health and creation of the body from the inside out. Pranayama techniques help to control the breath (that prana hitches a ride on usually), as well as helping to relax the body and let go of resistances to prana’s functioning.

There are several different types of prana and their functions/locations differ from one tradition to another, so I won’t get into them.

Random benefits of practice with no sanskrit or textual references as requested:
-The removal of impurities that prevent the inner light from shining.
-Increased ability to focus the mind in one direction.
-Physical and mental well being, more good stuff blah blah blah.

Notes: Schools may differ on this advice, but I think asana should be practiced first (the yoga sutra-s states that mastery of yoga precedes pranayama). Since it should be done in a seated position, warming up the body to facilitate comfortable sitting without being distracted by aches/pains/annoyances. Your total practice at that time should be to focus on the breath. As lotusgirl said, some schools use ujjayi technique in their practice also, which is awesome and I recommend it, but it remains that doing ujjayi with full concentration in your pranayama session will give you even more benefits.

Cautions:
It really isn’t advisable to start a practice without a good teacher. Many of them have contraindications and can be injurious to health if practiced without knowing their subtle effects. The breath ratios are also important in achieving desired effects. If you don’t have desired effects yet, this is also a good indication a teacher is needed.

A few years ago I tried some new pranayama practices, a few times in one day (to get them right? WRONG), and ended up yawning ALL DAY for the next three days. With the help of a doctor and a yoga teacher, I found out how to do certain breathing techniques which reset your body’s carbon dioxide level and fixed it within three hours of intermittent controlled breathing (without even believing it would work, so it must work!). A few months ago I attended the class of a friend who had a strong inhale based focus that I stupidly tried to engage in to the height of my ego’s capabilities, and ended up yawning for another few days before I found that technique again and fixed it. But in addition to stupid things like induced hyperventilation through yawning, these techniques affect the central nervous system and the cardiaovascular system, so I would recommnend to seek instruction with someone who can observe you before you take up a regular full force practice.


#6

I would like some advice myself seeing as you mentioned breath ratios suryadaya. I have seen conflicting advise on what the ratios should be, so please advise.

Should the out-breath be equal or longer than the in breath in anulom vilom(alternative nostril breathing/nadi shodana) I have seen one Upanishad mention the out breath should be much longer and some texts say they should be equal.

Should the breath retention be as long as possible in between breaths or should they be of a fixed period. Again I have seen conflicting advise, one mentioning it should be as long as possible and another saying it should be 1 second pause.


#7

Hello Everyone,

Out breath is twice the inhalation. Retention is 4 times the inhalation. If you’re counting, the ratio is 1:4:2.

One essential of pranayama not yet mentioned is the regulation of the body’s natural warming and cooling cycle, produced by a natural alternating emphasis of breath from one nostril to the other, ha and tha. We rarely breathe through both nostrils equally, but rather one side will alternately dominate at intervals of about 1 hr. to 1 &1/2 hrs. That’s if you’re lucky, fairly healthy, balanced person. You can check this by lightly exhaling through your nose onto the back of your hand. One side will be dominant at the moment, and in a couple hours the other.

Anyway, vast and prolonged irregularities of this cycle sometime occur and is said to be the cause of disease. Performing anuloma viloma regularly establishes a regular cycle which will tend to continue throughout the day, becoming stronger and more regular with practice.

Oh yeah. Pranayama is definitely something you should be learning with a teacher. It’s hard enough to do properly when you already know how.

Makes sense to me.
peace,
siva


#8

[QUOTE=YogiAdam;34860]Ok, here’s a real stupid, rookie question. I practice Pranayama (which, by the way, I’m not yet sure what it’s for), and then Asana. Are these practices always meant to be separate? Is there any time when you are doing pranayama simultaneously with Asana? Or are they always practiced separately?

Also any really basic, practical answers or info as to what Pranayama is meant to do, would be really appreciated. I’m not after big, long traditional answers with sutra quotes, but just practical, easy to understand answers. Thanks kindly.[/QUOTE]

Questions aren’t stupid, only answers.

On a superficial, practical level pranayama (should, if done right) bring calmness and clarity to your mind. When your respiratory system works better it improves your circulation. This inturn oxygenates everything better; your brain will function better along with all of you organs and nervous system(s).

On a slightly deeper level it brings you into a deeper commune with life. It expands your consciousness, and brings your being to a higher state. You feel whole.

BUT, I feel obligated to tell you that I’ve read in several places (most notably light on Pranayama) that you should only begin pranayama when once you’ve mastered asanas. And since you asked whether you practiced the two separately i’m assuming you’re getting ahead of yourself. I would HIGHLY recommend sticking with the u-jai (which works wonders by itself) and do some vinyasa/flow yoga.

People have lost their minds, quite literally, from doing these exercises prematurely/ incorrectly. And according to B.K.S. there’s a lot to it!

Having said that, to each his own and only you know what’s best for yourself and I wish you well.

Spread love, Arthur.


#9

Although I come across as a Yoga purist sometimes, I just wanted to say in light of what Casasajc said that I don’t think one has to master asana in order to start pranayama, or even if asana is required to do pranayama. Ideally, yes one needs both asana and pranayama if they want to go onto meditation practice, but if one only wants to practice pranayama it is fine.

I know that pranayama is a very powerful practice and it does indeed work directly with your nervous system, but if it is done properly and gently(like doing asana) then it is not dangerous at all. If, however, it is not done properly it will lead to hyperventilation, light-headedness and anxiety issues. But this is also true of doing asana improperly, which could lead to damaging joints, pulling muscles etc.


#10

My view is I think in line with Patanjali concerning Asana.

That position in which you can sit, undisturbed, for LONG periods of time 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours with head and neck and spine fairly tall is asana.

I think all the other asanas were developed with this in mind - for the most part.

I have an Idea as to the whys on the ratios. Theories I have.

For me with the [I]comming and going[/I] if I’m doing it I don’t bother with the counting.

I slowly and quietly fill till i’m comfortable. I hold as long as comfortable. I expell slowy and smoothly and as quietly as possible.

Working with the essential breath is a practice of numerous values. Apparent, subtle and secret.


#11

Hello Adam,

You’re doing something in your practice without knowing why you are doing it? Would you mind elaborating on this a bit. I’m hoping it will provide me some insight as a teacher.

The practice of asana and pranayama are not necessarily separate. For example an Ujjayi pranayama may be used in certain ways throughout or in parts of certain asanas or sequences. With a purpose of course, not just for the sake of doing it.

Pranayama effects or cleanses the energy channels of the body (nadis). Many pranayama techniques are calming in nature and therefore they are most effective when followed by a quiet, calm, undisturbed environment. For that reason I do not, in my own practice nor in my teaching, follow pranayama with asana. However pranayama following an appropriate asana sequence is fine - presuming the student comes out slowly, gently, and without disruption as this maintain the parasympathetic state of the nervous system.

There are benefits to pranayama that are pragmatic and these cross several layers of our existence. There are also esoteric benefits.


#12

InnerAthlete bring up a very good point that should be clarified. Often times in the Kripalu tradition they start off with pranayama exercises then asana practice. The owner of the studio I teach at does it this way. I teach the opposite for the reasons InnerAthlete gave.
Thanks for bringing that up and allowing me to clarify it.


#13

Hello again,

Vishnu Devananda put pranayama ahead of asana practice because it’s a great way to warm up for asana, and he was no slouch. Having practiced pranayama before, the regulation and control of breath are all well tuned and more easily incorporated with asana. If you try it you will see, you will have a much stronger asana practice. Also, if you start with pranayama, you won’t have any reason to skip it after asana. Right? Happens to a lot of people.

I think it’s best to learn them together, but it may only be because I was trained that way. Personally, I think Iyengar discourages learning pranayama before asana to keep people longer dependent on him/the teacher. Sivananda teaches them together and I’m very happy for it. I think asana practice is weak and somewhat lost without it, and that’s reinforced by having taught asana both with and without pranayama for 13 years. Those who learn them together naturally have a deeper understanding of the mechanics of breath with posture and transitions. However, practicing pranayama without a comprehensive asana practice is ill advised, because there are some risks involved, but mostly only if you’re really going to hammer it hard. Any teacher will tell you the same.
siva


#14

[QUOTE=InnerAthlete;34897] You’re doing something in your practice without knowing why you are doing it? Would you mind elaborating on this a bit. I’m hoping it will provide me some insight as a teacher.[/QUOTE]

The reason I’m doing something in my practice without knowing why I am doing it is, I practice Yoga, and Pranayama is a part of the system. I know that deep breathing is meant to be very beneficial for the Lymph system and improves you immunity. I do also experience a sense of calm after practicing Pranayama. On the other hand, I don’t see a single thread of evidence anywhere, to suggest that things like Prana (Chi, Life Force), or meridians are anything more that creative ideas, like astrology, feng sheu, or clairvoyance.
I’m not having a go at people who believe in there things, I’m just trying to give an idea of where I’m coming from, to answer your question. Hope that helps.


#15

Either these are contradictory statements, or the calmness you experience is a “creative idea?”

siva


#16

[QUOTE=siva;34908]Either these are contradictory statements, or the calmness you experience is a “creative idea?”

siva[/QUOTE]

Oh, I see your point!!


#17

Hi YogiAdam,

Practice often takes the following order (but no need to impose any strict rules certainly if it gets in the way of practice,limits it):-

1.Asana
2.Pranayama -or Breath Control
3.Meditation

So you move from gross to subtler still…

Pranayam might precede asana if you’ve got a friskier or vigourous asana practice which might takes more centre stage perhaps.And doin it can prepare for asan–yes i have experienced this and would agree,that’s why there are no rulees and can depend but a full-scope yoga practice often moves from grossest to subtlest.

The pranayam is designed to cleanse and purify the nadis,the energy or pathways within the subtle energy body. Nadi shuddi.A prelimary for awaknening kundalini, which can take several years BTW ,rather than overnight although it’s possible but unsafe.

It is most potent when combined with ther limbs.Knmbhaka or retention used in breath control is a big kundalini stimulator.

Breath through both nostrils. Focus on the flow at the nostrils,the bridge ,the top,the entrance,the brow etc.
Take a big full deep breaths.
Nadi shodana or Anuloma Viloma aka alternate nostril breathing.This is a good one which you can do with your mind;that also thus makes it more potent.

Breath defines asana. In ashtanga vinyasa for e.g ujjayii is promoted.One of effect of ujjayyi is to lengthen the breath through partial obstruction of the epigottis.

Prana is controlled by Mind , and prana-control has the side-effect of calming down mind.And thus can also help mind go one-pointed.

There are no rules about the order i gave above- that is the common recipe.But you might be best doing a short & gentle asana routine or sequence that is calming rather than agitating.So you enter in a relaxed state of mind. One way to prepare is to have a decent enough savasana.And perform nasal irrigiation or jala neti beeforehand only if you can fit it in.

When i practiced alot of asanas something i used to do and for which my asana teacher at the time did was suggested to students once they got into savasana was to tune or re-tune back into their ujjayii breath,before finally letting go & relaxing and sinking into savasana.

Some of the vigourous asana practices may sometimes be ill-suited to a ful-scope yoga routine the incorporates the pranayam and meditation that follow.

Some however may do jala neti and then some light kapalabhati to clear the nasal passages and cleanse the frontal lobes,sinuses ,third-eye etc.I would just focus on light ful breathing or maybe alternate nostril breathing.There are no rules.But some pranayamas can have more specific effects especilly when you combine your practices into one integrated whole.

Surya Deva,

The ratios and retentions ‘potentize’ pranayama but i would start off,at least, with equal (relaxed) breathing, as holding the breath that long might be a strain.The ratio Siva posted is correct btw,1:4:2 Inhale:Retain:Exhale with the retention or kunbhaka on the 4 count. I would’nt worry about this at least straight out the gate as you are introducing more potency and difficulty to the practice.In fact i rarely practice like this. But might give it a go more often perhaps. There is just so many practices out there, and ways of modifying it. I tend to go with my intuition,inner guide.The out-breath is generally a longer.

For example when i do alternate nostril i commonly do equal inhale;exhal, with next to no retention.Trust the signs.Adding Kumbhaka reallly does make the pranayama way more powerful.The strictness of the ratios is probably there just for one reason to offset and balnce the fact that the unclusion of kunbhaka makes it more powerful.So the effects are balanced and the distribution of prana through the nadis is equal.

So ratios togther with kumbhaka make pranayam more exotic and powerful.I have read som explanation that the prana flows more easily when you create an oxygen deficit.

So theoretictically:-

let’s say you do alternate nostril breathing,while you are breathing through your right nostril and not your left, in theory prana flows into the left-brain during that period of oxygen deprivation on a gross level ,at least, and a waking up occurs in certain brain regions and areas of the nervou system, psychic and physical.

A main effect of pranayam is to culture the nervous system.Pranayama can do this( as can other components )


#18

[quote=YogiAdam;34904]The reason I’m doing something in my practice without knowing why I am doing it is, I practice Yoga, and Pranayama is a part of the system. I know that deep breathing is meant to be very beneficial for the Lymph system and improves you immunity. I do also experience a sense of calm after practicing Pranayama. On the other hand, I don’t see a single thread of evidence anywhere, to suggest that things like Prana (Chi, Life Force), or meridians are anything more that creative ideas, like astrology, feng sheu, or clairvoyance.
I’m not having a go at people who believe in there things, I’m just trying to give an idea of where I’m coming from, to answer your question. Hope that helps.[/quote]

Hi YogiAdam

You are told yoga is good for you and will offer benefits like make you feel good.You’re doing it on good faith that it works.

If you give your life to Jesus, you will be saved. That seems a good enough reason.

You are willing to at least sample that pudding to confirm for yourself if it tastes good or not.


#19

Astrology.

Chi/prana/Essential Breath/life force.

Feng Shooey

and

Clairvoyance

will all be sounding quite preposterous until they are explored fully.

If you’d like to have a gas . . .

Go to chaosastrology.com

click free reports

click free natal chart

input the information that is asked for.

You must be very specific here. You must know birth time, date, and lat long or nearest city you were born in. If you fudge it. The results will be slightly off. The more specific and correct with the information provided the more comical it is. Remember this is just one of many readings.

Its hilarious. Go on. Don’t be scared.

I expect you to do this because its free and will only take minutes if you have the correct information to provide.

If you need to call up mom to ask her what time you were born do so.


#20

I do also experience a sense of calm after practicing Pranayama.

Well you have answered your own question on what Pranayama is for. I have said this before your strong aversion against religion and faith, bespeaks of your own religious tendencies. You are doing Pranayama without knowing what you are doing it for. That is faith.

In any case you have answered your other question as well on prana/chi. The designers of these techniques the ancient Yogi scientists did extensive research over a long period before these techniques were created. They studied the relationship between the breath and the body and the effects on the nervous system and the mind very merticulously and then developed and refined these techniques over time. You say there is no evidence for prana/chi and yet you confirm yourself their research works.

I think you are rather unapprecative and ungreatful of the research these ancient Yogis have done in developing this system you now use for your betterment. This may hit you hard in the future.