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#3 Yoga off the mat

Updated: May 16

Again, this post is my perspective of the book “Light on Life” by B.K.S Iyengar.


When we inhale, the breath (containing vital life force oxygen) flows into the bloodstream, and in turn, all the cells of the body. Our normal breathing is good enough, it keeps us going. HOWEVER, yogic breathing (or Pranayama) “vitalises the system and generates enough energy for us to realise our full potential.”


Our job as a teacher is to open the body, prepare it to sit in meditation (Dharana and Dhyana) and guide people to achieve the strength in their bodies to be able to carry this pranic energy, so that they can sustain it. Without the strength necessary, Pranayama can cause depression, anxiety and suffering, as the energy will not flow correctly through the body and brain. So please do not try this until you have been guided by a trusted and qualified teacher. Gentle, controlled breathing is always good for calming and centring the mind (for example breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts), it is the breath retention that can negatively affect the nervous system.


A breathing practice is important, especially if we are in a state of stress. Within this state our breath is cut short as the abdomen constricts from anxiousness, and our life energy is depleted. Or in scientific terms, insufficient oxygen is sent to our blood system, and therefore our cells and organs. The nerves can become corroded and blocked.


Pranayama;


  • Clears and soothes feverish brain

  • Brings reason and clarity of thought

  • Lifts the mind towards meditation

  • Liberates from fear

  • Relaxes the brain so it lets go of desires.

  • No dwelling on the past or future

  • Relaxes the nervous system

  • We are no longer driven by external sources/gratifications

  • Allows us to turn inwards and use gentle powers to seek out the self


To begin with, all of these benefits are short lived, but the more that we experience them the easier it becomes to release our attachment to them.


In other words, where you direct the breath, consciousness follows, our consciousness is fuelled by energy (prana) and desires (vasana). If our breath is the stronger of the two then our desires are under control, the senses in check, and the mind is calm. If desires are too strong, then our mind becomes agitated and our breathing uneven. This helps us to further understand the meaning of Pranayama which in simple terms is;


Prana - vital life force

Yama - to gain control

(Wikipedia)


According to Iyengar, with normal breathing, the entire body inhales and exhales. With yogic breathing the brain and extremities are passive and only the lungs are activated.


“The practice of Pranayama involves breathing exercises and patterns. You purposefully inhale, exhale and hold the breath in a specific sequence.”

(Healthline.com)


We all need to be kind to ourselves, and know that this is all a journey, the true practise of yoga is to strengthen, nourish and keep the body healthy, in order to keep the mind healthy and balanced, leading us to the goal of Samadhi (Anandamaya) or bliss :). Of course when, and if we manage to achieve this, everyone around us benefits, we will be able to give and contribute better, holding space for, and supporting those we love.




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