What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is a prominent Yoga practice – an art of breathing.
“Prana” can be roughly translated as life-energy. The theory of Prana is an elaborate body of knowledge with roots in ancient Vedic texts, Samkhya philosophy and later Yoga & Ayurveda texts. It outlines a view in which the body is an intricate system of channels (nadis) in which Prana flows. “Yama” is generally translated as attitude (as in how we relate to something) , though in this context it is better understood as a discipline or a practice. “Pranayama” is therefore a practice of life-energy.
Pranayama also contains the word “Ayama” (prana+ayama => pranayama) which can be translated as extension, stopping or restraint. This translation hints at a core aspect of Pranayama practices in which the breath is gradually and systemically extended by introducting holds or pauses in the breath. It is useful to remember that though the practices manifest as breathing they are aimed at the more subtle Prana. Breath is used to regulate the flow of Prana – and flowing Prana is that which heals, restores and builds and (amongst other things) facilitates better breathing.
What is iBreathe?
iBreathe is an opportunity to get acquainted with and take up a personalized practice of Pranayama. If you are already a practitioner of Yoga then Pranayama can complement and with a little exploration even refine your current practices. If you’ve never practiced Yoga – Pranayama can be a great place to start. Of all the Yoga practices it is the most suitable for quality online-learning.
Learning Pranayama is a gradual and individual process of exploration. Breath is like a finger-print – no two people breathe alike. It begins with a basic familiarity with the breath (which we usually take for granted) and slowly develops by adding structured breathing formulas and breathing techniques over months and years. It is best nurtured with a regular daily practice that gradually changes and progresses.
iBreathe is a space in which the subtle learning process of Pranayama can take place. In it I will be available to you (via Skype and email) for an entire year to:
- Teach you the basics of Pranayama.
- Formulate and guide you into a personal practice.
- Monitor your progress and advance or change your practice.
- To answer any questions you may have regarding your practice.
Observation is very helpful in developing and exploring a Pranayama practice. With this in mind, iBreathe includes access to a private online-diary where you can:
- Quickly and easily review your current practice sequence and review all of your past practices giving you an opportunity to see your path of development.
- Write periodic journal entries documenting your personal experience throughout the practice. Inside you will find sample questions to guide you and call your attention to different aspects of the practice.
- Write detailed practice logs including date and time of practice.
- Access your own personal “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) where you can review questions (and of course answers) you’ve asked in the past.
- Access an ever-growing collection of community “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) that other iBreathe participants have asked and may be useful to you.
- Schedule one-one-one consultations.
Your iBreathe diary comes with your registration for your first iBreathe year and is yours for life.
An Entire Year?
Yes an entire year. At first our interactions will most likely be weeks apart and then months apart. Pranayama is a practice that develops slowly, it can’t and shouldn’t be rushed. iBreathe is designed to support individuals who seek a long-term quality practice. A year is a meaningful period of time in which an experience of Pranayama can begin to form.
I’ve Never Practiced Yoga – Can I Practice Pranayama?
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Pranayama is listed as the 4th of 8 limbs of Yoga. The first three are Yama (attitudes towards the world around you), Niyama (attitudes towards yourself) and Asana (physical practices). The last 4 practices describe a gradual and deepening sequence of practices that lead to Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (integration/one-ness). But their order is not a simple order of practice.
The 8 practices describe a process of refinement – from gross to subtle. For example, a gross experience of physical movement (Asana) is usually easier to perceive then a subtle movement of breath (Pranayama) or of awareness (Dhyana). Each practice acts as a support and preparation for the next practice. Each practice also acts as a bridge from it’s preceeding practices to its succeeding practices.
Ultimately there is in each practice a quality of all the other practices. It is best to have a practice that encompasses a whole view of Yoga. But more importantly it is better to have some practice then no practice. The more pertinent question is therefore where to start? A practical answer is where you are.
There are numerous benefits to Pranayama as a starting point:
- It is a gentle practice.
- It is an effective practice – in classic texts it is more essential to Yoga then the popular physical postures for which is Yoga is known.
- It is a practice for life – Pranayama can be practiced at any age. Breath remains supple long after the body settles into adulthood and even after the body begins to deteriorate in later years.
- It is a relatively short practice that you can fit into a busy day (in the beginning 10 minutes will do!).
- It has both a mathematic quality that captures and feeds a wandering mind and at the same time an a meditative quality that is inherent in breathing and appears with less effort then meditation.
- You can practice it on your own and anywhere.
If these qualities appeal to you then Pranayama may be a good place for you to start Yoga.
I’ve Been Practicing Asana for Years – Can I Benefit from Pranayama?
Yes – BIG time. If you’ve been practicing Asana for years and haven’t been practicing Pranayama then you are missing out – it’s almost as if you’ve been going to a great party but never joined in. Asana (physical), Pranayama (breathing) and Dhyana (meditation) practices are designed to work together:
- Asana is intended to awaken and move Prana (though people often come to Asana practices expecting relaxation – Asana practices are actually designed to be unsettling).
- Pranayama is intended to then regulate the flow of Prana that has been awakened with Asana.
- Dhyana is intened to direct the flow of Prana that has been regulated by Pranayama.
Asana and Pranayama also complement each other – they create a kind of positive feed-back loop where:
- Asana prepares for Pranayama – it jump-starts the Prana in the body making it more malleable in the Pranayama practices and it prepares the physical body for sitting.
- Pranayama extends and strengthens the breath. This improved breathing capacity creates a potential for more intensity and longer stays in postures.
If you have not yet experienced the intimate and supportive relationship betweem movement and breath in your Asana practice – then Pranayama may open you up to a new world of practice and bring you closer to meditation.
Prerequisites to iBreathe
To benefit from a Pranayama practice you will need:
- Curiosity – a curiosity fueled by a living passion to better yourself.
- Discipline – a deep rooted and balanced commitment (to yourself) to practice consistently.
- To Sit – a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for 10 – 20 minutes of practice a day.
- Ticking 🙂 – you will need to note a precise passage of time with either a ticking clock (that you can comfortably hear) or a metronome.
Pranayama is a long and intimate journey. The key to Pranayama is a continuous, soft, attentive practice. The key is you.
What Does it Cost?
iBreathe costs 100 Euro for a Year of personal guidance. A year begins when you send payment and will end 365 days later – it’s that simple!
To sign up or request additional information please use this form: