Pranayama and its healing power

Pranayama by Maitreya7 on Photobucket

Here’s my AlphabeThursday post for the letter “P”.

Pranayama, or breathing, practice is a key element of the Kriya tradition in yoga. Since my teacher was a disciple of Goswami Kriyananda, of the Kriya lineage (that of Paramahansa Yogananda), he taught us a number of breathing practices during hatha classes. I loved it from the beginning and took a pranayama class at the Temple of Kriya Yoga to learn more.

For many years my main practice was alternate nostril breathing, which I used before every meditation as a means to calm my highly stressed and tension-filled body enough to meditate. I used some of the others and along the way added holotropic breathing and the Eight Key Breaths to the repertoire.

Eventually my issues with kundalini led to my acupuncturist banning me from all breathing practice. For some years, although I experimented periodically, I stayed away from pranayama. Eventually I realized I could again practice without having the room spin and/or an inner ear imbalance. By that time a lot of the tight muscles had released and the many years of chronic fatigue left me more concerned about energy.

I began doing the Eight Key Breaths daily and watching them build my energy, not only in terms of having more chi but I could follow the expanded energy as it pushed on taut muscles and helped to create more opening. I’ve since added some kundalini yoga practices that use breath of fire extensively and that has added to growing energy and the faster break-down of the final vestiges of my major muscle issues.

Prana is the vital force energy that moves through the body with the breath. Every breathing practice assists the vital flow of prana. Because breathing practices cause you to inhale and exhale completely and in an even pattern they have a huge impact on stress. A great deal of tension in the body relates to uneven and shallow breathing habits and every breathing practice I’ve ever done has created calm.

You can do different kinds of pranayama to create different outcomes beyond calm. Breath of fire is energizing. Bee breath can help you sleep. Alternate nostril breathing causes you to breathe equally through both nostrils which helps create union, so it’s not only calming but assists in meditation. There are many more.

It’s free and you can accomplish so much self healing just by working with your breath. Lots of Americans have patterns of very shallow breathing, most are taught to suck the stomach in on inhalation and let it out on exhalation which is the opposite of natural, healthy breathing. Lots of people also have patterns of inhaling and holding the breath a few beats before letting it go. Breathing is so unconscious for most of us that we aren’t even aware of those patterns. It was a very astute eye doctor (who worked with the eyes as part of an emotional mapping process) who pointed out to me that I continually held my breath. Check into your own breathing habits. Give yourself the gift of pranayama. You’ll be surprised how many other things become better.

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19 thoughts on “Pranayama and its healing power

  1. FascinatIng post. Thank you. I live in Scotland. Do you know how I could find out more about the breathing practices you’ve learned?
    I followed your link on the 8 key breaths through to the Mentalphysics site. Have you participated in their training programmes? If you have, what was your experience like?
    Thanks again for this interesting post
    Bob

    • You can download the booklet that gives instructions with pictures here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/3856827/Breaths-That-Renew-Your-Life . I learned them and got the instructions originally through Nine Gates which usually holds the second session at the Center for Mentalphysics. I did find it helpful to have some instructions besides just using the pamphlet but I think you could pretty much get it from this.
      I think they used to require that everyone who held a workshop there had to teach the Key Breaths and the 5 Tibetan Rites so we learned both. I love the place and the incredible vibe of the high desert but I’ve only been there for Nine Gates.
      For breath of fire, Ravi Singh’s Fat Burning DVD does lots of stuff to breath of fire and has some instruction although he does it differently than the way I learned it, which involves big use of abs. There are so many different styles of yoga these days and lots of them don’t particularly emphasize breathing, spiritual development or meditation so it’s hard for me to know what’s around you, but a traditional yoga center (like the Temple–see link in post) should offer pranayama classes.
      Let me know if I can help with anything more.

  2. I think learning better breathing techniques would be beneficial. Thanks for enlightening me with your experiences . I may have to dig a little deeper to learn some of these for myself. Linking up via Alphabe-Thursday!

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