pranayama - yogic breathing

Julius P0pp, modified 15 Years ago at 2/16/09 11:29 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 2/16/09 11:29 PM

pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 50 Join Date: 8/17/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

hi everyone,

right now I am training in concentration to reach access concentration. before practicing for 30 minutes, I do about 15 minutes of statical asanas, and then about 5 minutes of alternate-nostril breathing before concentrating on the tip of my nose for half an hour.

a short introduction for those unfamiliar with raja yoga: raja-yogis, or people following the classical yogic path of Patanjali, tend to be very systematic, and would "master" the first 5 steps of the eightfold path (not to confuse with the Buddhist noble eightfold path) before engaging in the 6th step, that is concentration. one of the prior steps is pranayama, the control of prana / chi through slow/stopped breathing.

What I know pranayama does:
it slows down your mind, even if you can't concentrate well.
it stabilizes the mind while holding the breath or suspending it.
it generates a feeling of lightness and reduces appetite when done a lot (more than the few minutes I'm doing right now).
it is only practiced after you can relax your body in a firm posture (asana) and not forcefully, with an easy feeling.

what pranayama is also supposed to do:
cleanses the nerves and nadis / energy channels.
balances ida and pingala, especially the alternate nostril breathing.
siddhis like generating heat or levitating.
Julius P0pp, modified 15 Years ago at 2/16/09 11:33 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 2/16/09 11:33 PM

RE: pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 50 Join Date: 8/17/09 Recent Posts
What are your experiences with the benefits and limitations of breathing techniques, maybe from other traditions?

It is a preparatory step that is supposed to make the mind ready for concentration. What is its essence? Abdominal breathing I have, and my breathing rate is at 12-13 a minute naturally. I can concentrate for about 5 minutes right now. What could be the benefits of further pranayama practice? How useful is it compared to "real" concentration practice?

Theoretically you can combine the two, no? But after doing pranayama and being relaxed, I usually don't want to hold or suspend my breath any longer.

Are there maybe two poles, raja and hatha, like in soft jhana vs. hard jhana, the raja yogis saying that you control the prana with your mind while hatha yogis would control their mind with their prana while both work?

Thanks for your inputs.
Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 4/30/09 3:38 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 4/30/09 3:38 PM

RE: pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Aberino

Hi Julius. This is one of the few things I feel I can comment on, only based on my own experiences. Alternate nostril breathing seems to both subtly energize and relax me, so it may be useful as a practice before beginning concentration. Something I often do at the beginning of a meditation session once I've assumed a stable posture is focus on counting my breaths in cycles of 1-10 to develop my concentration. What I've found is when I do this my breath tends to eventually become very slow, quiet and at least seemingly shallow. Something below my diaphragm "tilts" and sucks the air in so gently I cannot even feel it. I just feel my abdomen and diaphragm expand and contract. Oftentimes I can even stop breathing for what seems like a very long time without feeling any strain or discomfort. This does not work if I try to force it - I have to naturally build up to it with regular, concentrated breathing. Once my breath becomes very quiet and slow, I feel slightly energized, "light", my mind is much quieter and I can concentrate much better than before.
Flávio Vizeu, modified 12 Years ago at 5/13/12 7:20 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/13/12 5:08 PM

RE: pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
I'm glad I've found this topic. When I learned about buddhist meditation and started practicing it I really missed the preparatory stage of doing just a few asanas and a few minutes of pranayama (alternate nostril with Ujjayi pranayama seems to be the perfect combination). I find it to be much faster and easier to get into a certain stage of concentration when I do a short session of pranayama and also much easier to keep myself there.

I've always wondered if buddhist yogis know what they are missing out. This is really practical stuff that can boost your concentration/insight practices.

If you're interested, I really recommend following the instructions from the Bihar School of Yoga. They're simply the best you'll find concerning yoga. The rest is just fluff or esoterical superficial stuff. You can find a lot of information and instructions on their book "Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha" .The link is the following:

I'm not exactly a beginner in meditation and I know there is a lot to explore, but I feel this is the biggest contribution I can give to this wonderful community right now.

Give it a try and let me know what you think of it!
Change A, modified 12 Years ago at 5/13/12 5:44 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/13/12 5:44 PM

RE: pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 791 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
I do alternate nostril breathing as well and find it to be quite useful. I agree with you that yogic asanas (or other movement exercises) can help a lot with concentration/insight practice.

I also think that Bihar School of Yoga is the best when it comes to yoga.
Coyote, modified 12 Years ago at 7/7/12 10:53 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 7/7/12 10:53 AM

RE: pranayama - yogic breathing

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/22/12 Recent Posts
I find basic pranayama practice to be particularly useful during times of low energy as a precursor to sitting meditation or performing asanas. The instructions I use are also from the Bihar school of yoga--a great book by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Meditations from the Tantras.

The other links in this thread are dead, but if anyone is interested I'd be happy to scan and email the chapter from the book--just send a message.