What is pranayama?

“‘Prana’ means breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy or strength. ‘Ayama’ means stretch, extension, expansion, length, breadth, regulation, prolongation, restraint, or control. ‘Pranayama’ thus means the prolongation of breath and its restraint”
BKS Iyengar, Light on Pranayama


Breathing is freaking cool. It’s one of those functions of the body that’s automatic when we’re not consciously thinking about it, and yet we can control it with great precision. Imagine doing that with your heart or your intestines. Actively controlling the first sounds stressful and the second just seems weird and confusing (who knows what’s going on in there 😂). 

In yoga, we practice learning about our own breath and using different breathing techniques to directly affect the nervous system. It’s freaking powerful stuff, and if you don’t believe me, listen to Wim Hof. He’s the Ice Man, and he’s been using breath work for decades to push his body beyond the limits of modern scientific beliefs.

You can feel the power of the breath right now. Close your eyes and take 5 slow, deep breaths. Just do it.

​Ok, what changed? Did your shoulders relax? Did your mind slow down? Do you feel at least a little bit better?

It’s really quite amazing, and I mean that in the most sincere way. Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga and sorely overlooked in Western practice. If this stuff fascinates you as much as it fascinates me, I suggest finding a yoga teacher you like to help you explore the world within your inhalation and exhalation.

Go prana! 🤸

​Emily

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