Pranayama is very subtle. For this reason, in Iyengar Yoga we go extremely slowly with it. With asana it is different – an experienced teacher can see what is going on and correct straight away.
When you make your exhalations long, feel the abdomen go down. Do not allow the abdomen to go forward at the end of the exhalation. On the contrary, allow it to go straight up. You don’t have to pull it in. It pulls itself in. The moment you stop exhaling is as if you allow your consciousness to sink down toward the base of the spine.
Your first inhalation will be somewhere below the navel. This is a very important part of the practice, because with it come two bandhas: mula bandha, and uddiyana bandha.
We are performing all the bandhas naturally, which means we do not actually do them, but rather let them happen. As you start your inhalation, fluctuations come about. The best way to avoid them is to let uddiyana bandha happen – natural pulling in, sucking up of the abdomen. You do not do the movement, however you induce it, you are guiding it. It is like a negative pressure that you are creating in the abdominal area. You exhale to your fullest, so that when you start your inhalation, when the breath is in its movement upwards, there is a kind of suction, vacuum. You do not suck your belly in but you allow your consciousness to sink. You do not let the abdomen go outwards, but to be pulled from inwards up.
This is when the pull comes also in your anus. Mula bandha is the anus coming together, but not by contracting. Your anal mound is sucked in and it should come naturally; if you make it happen you are causing a great problem to arise. Mula bandha is bound to happen at some point or another if you are following the right technique. Your exhalation will never take you to the anal mound, only inhalation can do that.
The proper inhalation causes negative pressure. It will take you two or three years of right breathing before you get the contraction of the anus. Don’t be in a hurry. Haste will make total waste. Just follow the technique, no matter how long it takes.
If you play around with the mula bandha and start to inhale with it, you cause a great pressure to arise all over in the chest area. This is because your pulling action is causing a negative pressure from the top. It is very dangerous indeed.
The inhalation goes in front of the spinal column, upwards. The exhalation comes from the front down. Down–inside-up – this is the cycle.
Working with the breath, we work straight on the mental – psychological and emotional level. That is why you have to be careful with pranayama – wrong practice can cause neurological disorders.
In certain meditation techniques imagination is used. If done wrong, it will damage your mental stability very fast. However, the pranayama is even faster, because it is connected with the physiological process. Imagination is very powerful, but not as powerful as the pranic currents within you. By doing wrong pranayama, you can be disturbed all day long, have blackouts, get twitches in different areas etc.
Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2002