Happy Tuesday — welcome to another Yoga Break! We’re right in the middle of our series on Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, and this week we are exploring the fourth limb: Pranayama.
If you’ve got some experience with yoga or meditation, Prana might be a word that sounds familiar, even if it’s just having seen it advertised on a pair of pants at a yoga studio. It’s a word we use a lot (and usually correctly), but I know that I am always very impressed not only by the importance of Prana in our lives but also by the sheer vastness of the Pranayama practice. So, to start off with, what is Prana? Prana is a little bit hard to define by Western standards, but it’s basically the vital life energy that flows through the bodies of all living beings. Now, keep in mind that I’m not an expert on this particular subject, but I’ve been told that Chi/Ki and Prana are very similar, if not the same. That means that Reiki, Tai Chi, and Pranayama are all linked by similar concepts, which is pretty cool to think about!
Okay, so we have this life force (Prana) flowing through us constantly, and it is very much linked with our breath. Ancient Ayurvedic teachings suggest that the length of our lives is determined by the number of breaths we take, so the more deeply we breathe (hence, taking fewer breaths), the longer we’ll live. I’m not going to say that I believe this is true, but I will definitely say that the breathing practices handed down through the Yogic tradition are invaluable when it comes to living a more peaceful, nourishing life. The idea is that we can control the Prana flowing through us by controlling the breath, and there are different techniques on how to do this. Because this post is meant to give you a general overview of the fourth of Patanjali’s eight limbs, I’m not going to go too into detail with the specific techniques in this post — you can look forward to those getting their own special posts! However, if you’d like to do some online sleuthing on your own in the meantime, some of the most commonly practiced Pranayama techniques out there are Ujjayi and Nadi Shodhana. Feel free to give them a search and start practicing!
As always, I would love to know your thoughts, so please let me know in the comments about your own experiences with Pranayama. Have a lovely, high-vibing week, and I will see you back here next Tuesday.