|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 37 ]
In Yoga: Step-By-Step, Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri responds to the question of where to start when studying yoga by asking; "Where does life start?" The answer to both questions, he says, is with the breath of life!
"… Yoga should start with the breath disciplines, which will later lead us to the classical pranayamas. In the beginning, pranayama is very much a case of moving air [vayu] in and out of the body. Pranayama is actually a higher form of controlled breathing, bringing under domination the Divine Life Force, represented by the prana."
Most pranayama techniques being taught today are in fact merely techniques of moving air in and out in various ways.
These methods themselves can provide great physiological and mental benefits, and are certainly necessary precursors to pranayama, but as Swami Gitananda points out, they are not actually considered in the yoga discipline to be pranayama.
Swami Gitananda classifies the practice of pranayama into 3 levels:
- Yoga Pranayama – Those which stabilizes the body. They are used for cleansing and purifying the physical body and also as a means to build health and endurance.
- Samyama Pranayama – Stimulates turning inward. They are aids in meditation, concentration and mind control in preparation for higher states of consciousness.
- Shakti Pranayama – Higher practices designed to activate/arouse the Kundalini force, the concentrated Prana of the Universe.
It is in yoga pranayama where we will inject ourselves into the yogic life. This level includes basic physical breathing exercises - the techniques essential for cleansing and purifying the respiratory system, blood stream, and organs, for toning up the nervous system and strengthening and purifying the mind.
We'll begin with what may seem for some to be quite simple techniques, but as you will soon discover, there is very much to be gained here and attention at this level will provide a firm and necessary foundation for the entirety of the rest of your yoga studies and practice.
The fact is that nearly everyone in this day and age is a terrible breather. The average person today breathes scarcely into 25 percent of their lungs with each breath! Some much less even. The problem is that we have developed a habit of breathing into such a limited capacity of our lungs that we don’t even notice now what we’re missing...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
"The Science of Yoga is a course worthy of
leather binding and an honored place in the
finest libraries in the world
... It is indeed a masterful work."
Dr. John Michael Christian
Learn More About
The Science of Yoga Course