teaching pranayama to yoga studentsBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

A holistic and balanced practice of Yoga includes the traditional physical postures, in addition to breathing exercises, meditation techniques and a detailed system of ethical recommendations and injunctions. Study of sacred scriptural texts and the recitation of sacred mantras are also key components of a balanced practice of the ancient art of Yoga. This ancient art has the power to completely transform a Yoga student’s life at every level with dedicated, consistent practice.

One of the primary beneficial effects of the practice of Yoga is the union of the body and mind through the practice of pranayama. Pranayama is the restraint or modulation of the breath in a variety of ways in an effort to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, increase vital “chi” or life force energy and cool an overactive mind. When a student begins a Yoga practice, often his or her mind is not linked to the movements of the body.

This disparate rhythm between the body and the mind can create an underlying feeling of anxiety and dissipate vital life force energy. When the body and mind are not unified, a Yoga practitioner will often experience a lack of focus, concentration and unsteady balance. This lack of grounding and focus can become quite apparent when a Yoga student attempts to practice a balancing posture, such as Half Moon Pose, Warrior III or Tree Pose! Try as he or she might, holding a balancing posture may feel impossible if the mind and body are disjointed.

The lack of union between the mind and body can be likened to a candle flame that flickers in a strong wind. As the wind becomes harnessed; energy, focus and concentration will increase. By linking the mind and body together through pranayama techniques, a Yogi or Yogini will experience greater ease, vitality, energy, concentration, and a much stronger ability to focus while practicing Yoga asanas. By linking each movement of the poses with the breath, the poses will unfurl in a natural and expansive way. 

For example, as you raise your arms overhead to begin the practice of Sun Salutation A, take a deep breath in, as you exhale, bend forward into Standing Forward Fold. In this way, the breath will move you and your mind will be able to rest on the dual wings of your inhale and exhale. Many Yoga students find that practicing Ujjayi Pranayama, or the Ocean Sounding Breath, allows their minds to focus easily on the movement of the postures. A mindful practice of Ujjayi Pranayama during asana practice will both relax you and increase your vital life force energy through the balancing effect it has on the nervous system.

© Copyright 2013 – Virginia Iversen – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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