Pranayama is, quite literally, the practice of breathing consciously. It’s a sanskrit word made up of two words – prana = life force or vital energy; yama = extension or drawing out. Students of Iyengar yoga learn how to regulate or channel the breath to provide a bridge between the individual self and the universal soul. This sounds like a big claim. But taken slowly, the practice of pranayama can begin when students are simply ready to focus on their inhalation and exhalation.
Rather than suck in air, the lungs, diaphragm, ribs, and abdomen receive the breath. In describing the practice, Iyengar says that the breath must “be enticed or cajoled, like catching a horse in a field, not by chasing after it, but by standing still with an apple in one’s hand. Nothing can be forced; receptivity is everything.” We are to do pranayama with our intelligence, as opposed to our brains, Iyengar says.
By practicing pranayama the mind becomes still. When this happens, we can allow the energy we normally spend engaging with and processing the world to bend inward.
You’ll have an opportunity to experience pranayama during classes with Jayne. Here are some resources to help you discover more about conscious breathing.