Yoga Breathing - Pranayama

One should not follow the breathing techniques word by word. The idea is to try and grasp the general direction and principles in order to modify your breathing pattern according to your individual needs at any given moment. Well, in the beginning you might feel insecure and want to follow every detail, but bear in mind that the techniques vary and here are described some general principals through a personal prism.

The breathing is central part of the yoga practice. Even when you walk and engage in breathing you are already in practice. It is one of the eight stages in yoga: Yama, Nyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharna, Dhiana, Samadhi. Breathing techniques can prepare you for the asanas or can be done as a separate practise. Traditionally pranayama is performed before the complex of postures in the morning or if you do the poses in the evening, after that. It is a way of consciously controlling the work of the breathing organs in order to accumulate the vital universal energy Prana. In Raja Yoga is stated that Pranayama is not the breathing itself but gaining control over the muscular power that is responsible for the breathing. We want to discipline the movement of the breathing organs to a rhythm, which is in resonance with the frequencies of the flowing energy. This, however, is only one side of pranayama, the other one is to control the accumulated energy and to consciously move it and concentrate it in different parts of the body in order to activate their vital functions. Both aspects work together and are only theoretically separated, in practice they are united in one process. The main idea is that we can control the prana consciously with our thoughts. In general all yoga postures have the same task.

Types of breathing

High Breathing

From its name becomes clear that it is breathing primarily in the upper part of the chest and lungs. It could also be called collarbone breathing. To perform this breathing raise shoulders, collarbone and the ribs follow, but do not expand completely. Most of us breathe in an every day manner with high breathing, but its characteristics are shallow breathing, the oxygen does not reach the lungs properly and breathing like that in a regular basis leads to many unwanted results. It is more common among women. There are some cases when high breathing is performed with higher speed but it will be discussed later in connection to mind kria.

Middle Breathing

Again from its name it can be guessed that it is breathing in which predominantly the middle parts of the lungs are filling up with air. It is also known as rib breathing in which ribs are expanded sideways. The benefits are greater than in the high breathing but it still does not reach the full capacity of human’s breathing.

Low Breathing

In low breathing mainly the lower part of the chest and lungs fills with air by expanding the abdomen in and out. It is also known as abdominal breathing. It is performed by moving the tummy out and than in towards the spine. This breathing is referred as the ‘magical breathing of yoga’. It serves as a method to accumulate prana energy in the body. It will be discussed later in many of the described techniques.
Some of the reasons that low breathing is so beneficial are purely down to the physiological characteristics of the human body. The lower part of the lungs has a larger capacity than the top part. Also the movement of the whole breathing organs is grater, which results in more air coming in to the lungs. The diaphragm massages the surrounding internal organs, also by expanding the lungs it allows more venous blood to enter and improves the overall circulation.

Benefits of practising pranayama:

Regular breathing exercises can help the body to develop stronger immunity against lungs problems. When the amount of air is increased in the lungs this automatically increases the oxidizing of the blood and the release of toxins, which leads to general wellbeing.

The diaphragm moves about 1cm when we breathe in normal way and 6-12 cm when we practice the full yoga breathing. This works as a deep internal massage to the organs and it tones them.

Pranayama is one of the ways to control the flow of prana trough your body.