“When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.” Hatha Yoga Pradipika
It is all about the breathing. The breathing is a key element in yoga and this key opens the doors of the subconscious mind.
First let’s divide the breathing in 2 categories: conscious and unconscious breathing.
- unconscious breathing on average 90% of the time we are unconscious of the breathing. We are not aware of the breathing organs that are in use during the process, the rhythm of the breathing and the sound of the air inside of us. In the unconscious breathing we are barely aware of the breathing at all.
- conscious breathing In the conscious breathing we are completely aware of the whole process. This is what yogis call yogic breathing.
Familiarizing with the breathing organs is the first step to conscious breathing. Those are: the nose, the diaphragm, the lungs and the skin.
The second step is to become aware of the diaphragm. In the unconscious breathing the usage of the diaphragm is very little. The yogis use the diaphragm to its full capacity conscious and aware on the same level like they use their arms. It is with the diaphragm and the nose that the yogis achieve the control of the prana.
The breathings consist of three parts
-inhalation yoga teaches that with the inhalation we also intake prana which is not oxygen but subtle energy that is delivered to every cell in our body. Prana is also referred to as internal breath.
-exhalation with the exhalation we return the used and transformed prana in the pranic field.
-retention of the breath this is the break between inhaling and exhaling also called kumbaka. With regular practice the yogi can prolong this break and achieve control of prana also known as kevala kumbaka which is the highest form of pranayama.
Pranayama is a higher level of yoga in which the practitioner controls the energy (prana) through the process of breathing. The control of prana is also one of the goals of Hatha yoga which enables the practitioners to control their mind. The mind and the prana are interdependent and every emotional and mental state is reflected in the process of breathing. With other words: to control the breath means to control the mind.
In yoga there are special exercises that teach you how to control the prana.
The pranayama exercises shown here are: Nadi Shodan, Kapalabati and Bastrika pranayama.
With the practice of these exercices you are not only increasing the intake of oxygen but also you are increasing your concentration and they are excellent preparation for meditation.
Advanced forms of pranayama should be approached with extreme caution because they can be fatal. One should do this in consultation with health provider and under guidance of experienced teachers.