Introduction to Pranayama February 20 2009

How Pranayama Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice
By Ann Pizer, About.com

Yoga breathing exercises, also known as Pranayama, are an important part of a developing yoga practice. Pranayama is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, as defined by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In addition to deepening your yoga practice, learning ways to calm or invigorate the body through breathing will greatly benefit your life off the mat.
Breathing is an involuntary act; it is an essential part of life. Although we cannot control whether or not we breathe, we can control the way that we breathe. A belief that different methods of breath affect the body’s health and life force is the core of Pranayama practice.

Calming Pranayama Exercises

Three-Part Breath – Dirga Pranayama
A good breath for beginners, this exercise teaches you how to fill and empty the lungs completely.

Equal Breathing – Sama Vritti Pranayama
Calms your body and focuses your mind.

Alternate Nostril Breathing – Nadi Sodhana
Bring yourself in to balance by clearing the energy channels on both sides of the body.

Cooling Breath – Shitali Pranayama
A simple breath, perfect for a hot day or after practicing yoga postures.

Vigorous Pranayama Exercises
Ocean Breath – Ujjayi Pranayama
This powerful breath helps you maintain focus while doing yoga and can really invigorate your practice.

Skull Shining Breath – Kapalabhati Pranayama
This advanced breathing exercise should be learned from an experienced teacher, as it is possible to become lightheaded if it is done incorrectly. Once mastered, this breath generates heat and clears the nasal passages.