Breathing is something that we do from the moment we are born to the moment we die, yet how often do we really stop to think about our breathing? When we're sick, we may notice that it's difficult to breathe or if we've just finished a strenuous workout, we may notice that our breathing is rapid, but how often do we make a concerted effort to control the breath? In modern culture, many of us are stressed, distracted and depleted, yet what if the best way to counteract all of these negative symptoms was to spend a little more time connecting with the breath and using it to restore our physical and emotional body?
Pranayama is the practice of yogic breathing. In Sanskrit, the word pranayama can be broken into two parts: “pran” translating to the life force and “ayam” translating to drawing out of our life force for energy and vitality. Another etymological view is that "pran" translates to life force and "yama" which means control. So, Pranayama is controlling of our life force for effective health and well-being. Together, this translates to drawing the life force through the body in order to promote health, vitality and well-being. Pranayama is an ancient method discussed in both the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Pranayama is still an important component of a modern day yoga practice, even though many Western yoga studios overlook this limb of yoga. Medical studies have shown that Pranayama is indeed a beneficial practice for those who are stressed or have a difficult time focusing and helps in invigorating the mind and body for increased energy levels and a focused mind. Pranayama can be practiced on its own as well as be linked with the asana (or physical yoga postures) practice. Read further in the book to better understand how Pranayama can be utilized to enhance your Yoga practice, health and vitality.