During Yoga practice, many postures do not seem to be a natural thing to do. We do them in order to get rid of the unnatural. Similarly, the technique of pranayama is not a natural thing to do, but the result is that it takes away unnaturalness in our lives, in our bodies, in our breath and in our mind. Pranayama brings naturalness in our body through alignment.
The breath is a manifestation of life and the purpose in doing pranayama is to understand life and yourself better.
How to prepare for pranayama?
The imbalances in our lives, the conditioned reactions are reflected in our body in the form of tensions and changed structure. Tensions are caused by contractions which, in turn, are caused by fear. Most creatures contract when they are afraid – it is a basic reaction of all animals.
Therefore, in order to undo those tensions, we stretch and we relax. Our body is a battlefield and in the postures a war is being waged. Asanas prepare the body for pranayama.
What does the work in asana look like in relation to the work in pranayama?
The body language reflects different emotional states, and so does the breath e.g. when you are angry your breath goes really quick. The yogis saw that body state and mind state go together and devised asana and pranayama. When we do the postures – stretching, inversions, twists – we take away tensions in our body that can even be seen in our DNA. They can be hereditary – some tensions and fears come from before we were born, from previous lives. Our state of consciousness will stay when we die and it will pass on to the next body. This is the law of karma – everything becomes a seed for the next thing. When we work on removing the tensions from the body, we work in taking tensions out of the mind, because it is the same thing.
The constituents of the body are bones, muscles (every organ is a muscle), nerves, blood etc. In asana we try to align the bone and the muscles. As a consequence the heart, the circulation, the nerves etc get regulated.
The breath is more subtle than the body. The phisical constituents of the breath are the lungs (connencted with the airpipe), the intercostal muscles (the muscles that connect the ribs together) and the diaphragm. By controlling the breath we watch the lungs, intercostal muscles and the diaphragm in the same way as we watch and make sure our muscles and bones are aligned in the postures. You cannot make your breath long if you are tense or when you are thinking. The control of breath is the most subtle of actions. We use the breath to understand life. Pranayama is understanding of life force and our lives are a manifestation of that force.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2000