Sutra 2.50: bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desha kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah dirgha sukshmah
Pranayama involves the regulation of the exhalation, the inhalation, and the suspension of the breath. The regulation of these three processes is achieved by modulating their length and maintaining this modulation for a period of time, as well as directing the mind into the process. These components of breathing must be both long and uniform. Translation and interpretation by TKV Desikachar
The different types of this control are: to surrender it up, to draw it in, or to hold it completely still, for different times, and in different stages and quantities. In this way it becomes long and subtle. Translation by Kofi Busia
We instinctively learn to walk because we want to get from one place to another. It comes to us more or less naturally.
We don’t learn to breathe –that we already have with us from the moment of birth.
We can learn to move our limbs far beyond the range of simple walking, cultivating strength and agility as part of our daily resources.
We can learn to watch and follow, or guide and use our breath to conscious purpose.
This is pranayama.
It is not a better way to breathe nor a natural way to breathe. It creates an interference with the uninhibited breath that, if nothing else, served the yogis of ancient times as a means for exploring how the breath is linked to the body and to the mind (it’s link to life already long since established). They discovered that the inhale lifts us up and the exhale calms us down. They observed that an even breath balances the mind. They noticed that the mechanisms of the breath integrate with the mechanisms of digestion, and as such a shift in one can effect a shift in the other.
Thus, pranayama was born. A methodical process of using the breath to affect mind and body and prepare one for meditation.
Once you own the methods in your body and breath, you may, as many many yogis have done, discover they can be quite useful in everyday life to balance your mood and energy. The next time your teacher leads you through a pranayama technique, note how you feel before and after. If you notice a shift, say from frenzied mind to calmed mind, ask your teacher if the technique is safe for you to practice on your own, and if it is, give it a try the next time you want to shift your mood accordingly.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.