What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is a term that refers to yogic breathing exercises, but there’s much more to be gained from learning to practice pranayama than just taking deeper breaths. The word “prana” actually refers to the vital life force that is within all living things. In Light on Pranayama, perhaps the most quintessential text on pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar says,

“It is as difficult to explain Prana as it is to explain God. Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels.  It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual and cosmic energy. All vibrating energies are prana. All physical energies such as heat, light, gravity, magnetism and electricity are also prana. It is the hidden or potential energy in all beings, released to the fullest extent in times of danger. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is energy which creates, protects and destroys. Vigour, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana.”

Prana also denotes pure consciousness — mental focus is just one other facet of energy. The practice of “prana” (breath, life, vitality, respiration) – “yama” (expansion, extension, breadth), is the practice of expanding the vital life energy throughout the body. Pranayama has VAST benefits including — mental clarity, increased energy, a calm mind, emotional/energetic balance. According to Iyengar, “through the abundant intake of oxygen by its disciplined techniques, subtle chemical changes take place in the …body…and the practice of pranayama regulates [the] flow of prana thorughout the body…it also regulates…thoughts, desires and actions, gives poise and the tremendous will-power needed to become a master of oneself.”

So much potential gain from some breathing exercises, right?? Whether you’re sold yet, or not, I can assure you that it’s a worthy practice! This is why I created two videos to introduce you to the basics of pranayama.  Regardless of whether yoga is your thing, or not, everyone can benefit from learning how to breathe better. Check out the two videos below and comment below this post to let me know how it goes! I’ll be sure to read all of your comments/questions/suggestions.

In Part 1, I talk about what “prana” is and the importance of sitting properly during breathing exercises. I also teach you how to practice Ujjayi (you-JI-ee) pranayama, along with reclining options for practicing breathing exercises.


In Part 2 I show you how to practice Nadi Shodhana pranayama. ***Note: I got distracted at the end by my kids arriving home. I was afraid someone would come in and interrupt the video, so I ended it without finishing the last round of nadi shodhana. When you practice, continue as long as you’d like making sure to finish with exhaling through the left nostril.

Interested in learning more about Pranayama and Yoga? I’ll keep offering freebies on this blog and my YouTube channel. Let me know below what you’d like to see more of! Or, if you’re ready to dive in deep, check out my 6-week online yoga course, Renew You!

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