hello everybody,

want to ask a question regarding the practice of pranayama. i have been practicing Yoga asanas from B k S Iyengars book, yoga the Path to holistic health. the book is very descriptive and the pictures are really clear. i’ve been practicing from the book since 09. however, its the pranayama that i have never tried. my question is…
#1. can pranayama be tried on your own? the book shows clear cut steps to take it up on your own. there are two types shown and they seem fairly simple to understand. what holds me back, is the warning that comes along with the pranayama chapter. it says , pranayama isn’t for beginners .

#2. why so? and why must one have a ground on Asana’s to begin the pranayama techniques shown in the book?

Your views are deeply appreciated.

love and peace.

Hi, Maximus.
As you know, pranayama means control of prana.
Beginners (and even advanced practitioners) are not supposed to do it, because its dangerous trying to control something you dont feel or understand at all. Random actions on this field may cause serious problems, which manifest on physical level as neuroses.
Though, I would recommend to enthusiastic beginners some simple pranayamas like “full yogic breath”, Nadi Shodhana only in gentle modes. These must be done with quiet mind.

There are different opinions on this. I say go ahead and try it. Do some more research and try to find the best instruction on how to do it, then just do it. I’ve been doing pranayama on my own for years with no ill effects.

I think that the reason you should learn asanas first is because its a progressive type of learning. First you learn the asanas, then the pranayama, then how to integrate the two. The same applies to the other limbs of yoga, practice is not necessarily sequential but can be simultaneous. As you progress, your practice doesn’t lengthen, it deepens.

‘Pranayama is not for the beginners’ is an instruction coming from one of the greatest yoga masters of our times and should be respected. What he may also be implying is that pranayama is certainly not for ‘self help’. There are so many intricacies that a teacher is needed to demo and review your initial practice. Later advancement can be done on your own.

Learning asana first is a good suggestion too. At the least it prepares your body and tones the breathing apparatus to undertake pranayama.

However, pranayama is not breathing; it is only a vehicle for prana. Prana is energy and through pranayama you purify, rejuvenate, re-delpoy prana energy to your subtle bodies. Here a margin for errors is small, hence the caution.

Not for a beginner’s mind.

If you can sense and feel prana(prana, not muscles) during and after practice, know what too look for then you’re prob. not or no longer termed a beginner any more. It takes time but it comes like everything in yoga with PRACTICE. There is not getting away from that word. It will always haunt you if you don’t understand it’s improtance. Everything revolves around practice. Understanding yoga, how practice intersects life and so on.

Pranayam is appropriate for everyone ( within and as part of a full balanced practice & lifestyle)especially the basic stuff. Just start off with the basics,[B] pace[/B] yourself meaning don’t go too fast- that is potentially the biggest mistake you can make- jumpin ahead when the nadis are not sufficently purified enough to take the prane- the volatge of the currents, but don’t worry too muchh, be fearless and be sure to incorporate your pranayama within a full practice. So you reaaly want to get some meditation in there however elemental , so you’ve got some witness consciousness to observe in detahced way teh effects of prana. One way to commit yourself to practice is to aim to do it at least once every day and commit to that rain or shine.

If you want to make real prgress in yoga there is little point in half-measures i think.Effectiveness can indeed be dramatically reduced.

Being able to focus mentally etc for extended periods is something a beginner has had little training in and is not used to…If you can do this you should be able to do pranayama but just start off with basics.Consider this as an analogy.Imagine rock-climbing with ropes and equipment and not knowing how to use it, tie secure knots etc or having learned.Best get a bit of practice in there beforehand.That is like anything in life. You just avoid frying up the crcuits internally before you’ve even left the starting blocks. You will be fine if you observe common sense precautions ad observe thee self-pacing principle.

The asans just allow you to see comofrtably although they do have other benefits like they do themselves free up the energetic pathways, focus and calm down the mind and offer all-round purification generally.They effectively suuport the other limbs much the way a brick supports a bridge( i.e made out of other bricks;withou the other bricks well… you’ve just got a brick).

Many just do asanas and it often gets called yoga and it what people just do but they are less likely to make as much inraods and sttrides, effectively their practice is less effective without the rick & varied toolset available if you are inclined to use it- all those other tools- diet, philosophy etc.

I would say go for it but don’t strive for results , that is where th meditation comes in. Let the results come without force and so on. You need to empty your mind of nonsense before you begin -try some light gentle asan before hand and/or savasana.

I agree with sticking to basics. Although I’ve been doing pranayama for a while, I still do only basics, ujayi, alternate nostril breathing, maybe a couple more depending on circumstances. I think its more important to learn bandhas and kumbhaka than to learn a lot of different pranayama variations. Of course, it never hurts to have proper instruction from a good teacher.

[QUOTE=core789;42453]Not for a beginner’s mind.

Not for the beginner’s mind! well said. The practice of Asana’s which generally begin with the “mind” eventually switches over to the realm of the No mind, or Atleast intermittent gaps of the no mind. essentially, you begin to stop the incessant ranting of the mind, and focus on the feelings on the physical body. so in essence, the Practice of Asana becomes an act of being present! i know that, in sorts i have experienced it. perhaps this is what BKS meant when he says that the legs become the brain of a posture like halasana, or when he says that we must let go of the mind when we are practicing. however, he clearly mentions they are not for beginner’s ( though i don’t understand why, since the steps are fairly simple). the practices mentioned in his book ( Path to holistic health) are Ujjiayi Pranayama (conquest of energy) and Viloma 2 Pranayama ( interrupted breathing cycle).
So the question is… can i begin practice using the techniques shown on the book? if anyone has or does practice the above mentioned pranayama, do let me know. i don’t get how doing the steps mentioned in the book in front of a yoga teacher is going to make much of a difference since, unlike the Asana’s there’s nothing external on display here. most of it is happening internally , since your just varying the way you breathe. Cant we just learn the steps, and get going?

Quoting from HYP, by far the best guide for yoga and from where all types of today’s yoga curriculum have emerged:-(translation by Pancham Singh- 1915)
'Some acharyas (teachers) do not advocate any other practice, being of opinion that all the impurities are dried up by the practice of pranayama.

Kindly describe something about Tribandha pranayam and the correct technique for the same

Thanks & Kind regards,

At the end there is none guru more help full that your inner guru .Just listen to him and if you got some materials to guide yourself well dont get scare just keep practicing carefully but keep the practice .At the end the practice is alone cause alone we walk the path.No guru can do the asanas and pranayamas for you.However if you find the right person please someone that is not full of fear or negatives learn from him and show apreciation fro their teachings

I think you should try pranayama. You have been doing yoga poses now for a while and if you are comfortable with the belly breathing during your asanas then starting basic pranayama should be fine. I feel that Iyengar was talking about those who are just beginning a yoga practise and may be overwhelmed at how long you hold breaths etc.

Dear all, thanks for reponse :). I was particularly referring to the correct technique of practicing pranayama with obeservation of all the 3 Bandhs i.e. Mool bandh, Uddayan bandh & Jalandhar bandh simultaneously alongwith the pranayama practice. This is known as Tribandh pranayama and extremely beneficial in awakening of the Kundalani, albeit if done correctly, hence the query.


In regard to the OP’s post (Maximus76)…

Pranayama moves energy into the nadis or channels of the body and a beginner simply doesn’t posses the alignment of the physical body nor the fortitude in the nervous system to pursue pranayama carelessly.

Imagine affixing a party balloon to the end of a fire hose then turning the hose on full blast.

Is not written in stone.You can take pranayama and asana at the same time.Thats what some Krya Yogis do and they dont do asanas so you see .none holds the last word .unless your are agree with everybody .Then your word become absolute.thats my

I’d like to bump this thread up and add a Q.

I have also read that pranayama should not be rushed into, and that we should begin with pranayama preparation like simply slowing the breath or practicing alternate nostril breathing. My current yoga teacher introduces pranayama by going straight into antar and bahir kumbhaka with bandhas to students whose previous experience with pranayama is only ujjayi in asana practice.

None of my teacher’s students seem negatively affected by starting out with the most advanced technique. No one goes crazy. Everyone shows up fine for class the next day. What I wonder is, has anyone actually observed or heard of any specific side effects to starting with kumbhaka as opposed to practicing some months with other techniques?

Yoga is a good way to keep you healthy.Yogaasans like pranayama will help to cure headache.and pranayama as uttanpadasana, sarvangasana, paschimottanasana, halasana, and shavasana are also beneficial for healthy life.

Aggressive pranayama pounds the nervous system - more so in those lacking alignment. Those effects take some time to manifest in some students, may not as radically effect others, and drive some constitutions to padded rooms. Additionally it would take a trained eye to actually see such things (over time, none the less).

If we look around we can see the effects of our living in our society. We have a collective nervous system that prevents us from being still, even for 2 minutes, and that is the result of what exactly? Long-standing societal living choices. But it would be difficult to point to one thing and say “that is responsible”.

In yoga, to me, it is always best to err on the side of caution. We may “get away with” many things but that doesn’t make it safe for students of yoga. If one student is harmed that is too many. As a teacher it is my job to live yama and niyama as best I can. Therefore what huffing and puffing you choose to do at home is completely up to you. That is your relationship with ahimsa, not mine. In the classroom it is to be to do no harm, none!


There is so much to say about pranayama…and it is not easy.

Back to classics: Swami Sivananda about The Science of Pranayama:

in the prana and pranayama book from the bihar school of yoga, they recommend building on a practice of preparatory techniques, regularly and for months, before attempting kumbhaka. i`m undecided as to whether this is overly cautious.

Yes maintain alignment and don try difficult techniques.In the beginning we all want to accelerate but accelerating does not meant to getting faster to the point . or trying to get there before others.Keep always the rule of dress me slow that Im going quickly.And another point is not to pay to much attention to the techniques itself because the most important is the feeling of it.By the way thats not my opinion is the wise opinion of an en-lighted master of Kriya yoga.And I know that hes right.So for the ones that made the remark about techniques keep swimming on the technique ocean.That only shows that you haven’t grasp the concept of concentration