A friend and colleague asked me today why I don’t teach pranayama – the yoga breathing – in my yoga classes. I should, I know I should.
I was trained in a particular method of yoga that disallowed the practice of breath control until, as Patanjali advises, ‘perfection is attained in asana”. Oh goodness, what a high bar! Nevertheless, when I did yoga teacher training with my first Iyengar teacher, we students would do an hour of pranayama before each asana session. It felt to me like hard work, not relaxing, and not natural – sitting very straight, chin down, chest up, and with long cycles of breathing.
It must be time for me to get over these old ideas and introduce my students to the loveliness that I experience in just sitting and watching my breath, as I do at the end of my asana practice. I don’t know that my poses would be a fit for the ‘perfection’ brief these days, but my attention is good, and my attitude even better than 30 years ago.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Trayam antarangam purvebhyah
These three aspects of yoga [concentration, absorption, and integration] are internal, compared to the former five [yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara].*
*Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar.