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Pranayama | No. 4 of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Pranayama is the 4th of the 8-Limbed Path.



The Previous Limb -> Asana


Etymology


Sanskrit Word: Pranayama

English Translation: Breath Regulation



Reference to Pranayama:


Tasmin sati svasaprasvasayorgativicchedah pranayamah. Yoga Sutra 2.49

"Having acquired this {a comfortable posture in asana}, one can control the movements of inhalation and exhalation. This is Pranayama."



Information


The 4th limb is pranayama or breath control. Prana is the life force energy one could say prana is God itself. Prana is the air we breathe in, it's the stratus we walk through - you can feel it as you move your arms , you can feel the wind in the air. We're trying to enliven ourselves with more fresh prana, fresh energy, and so it's super important to have a steady breath, to be able to create a long inhalation, a long exhalation, to find calmness evenness of breath, and to be able to take control of the breath because that helps us to control the mind. Ideally, we want to have a slow, calm, steady, breath all throughout the day, not just during yoga practice, but pranayama exercises can help us to achieve that - it's like exercising the lungs.


A lot of times we'll find that it's difficult to sit in pranayama until you've kind of practiced some asanas of some kind. One could say that the earlier limbs of yoga prepare the practitioner for the later limbs of yoga because they kind of get more subtle and more difficult from here. If you think about asana, it's like recess for adults. A lot of people have difficulty just sitting - t's really hard for a lot of people. I teach so many classes, people want to fidget and when we start class, they'll be standing there like kind of moving around, just kind of moving around, just kind of moving around, and it can be deceptively difficult to simply sit.


Pranayama begins our seated exercises of not moving the whole body. Having gotten some of that energy out through asana, having set the intention in the right place through the yamas and the niyamas now we can sit and work on just the breath which is a much more subtle practice. So many people will find total disinterest in pranayama until they've been practicing for a couple of years and it's like, "Huh oh what's that? Oh I want to try that now." The first couple years, a lot of people don't really care, and that's totally cool because you kind of have to get to the place where you want to do it and then you'll want to do it.


The Next Limb -> Pratyahara

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