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There’s more to yoga than turning your body into a pretzel or consuming Goji berries. Yoga is an old science explained by Pantjanali in the Yoga Sutras almost 2,000 years earlier as ‘yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.’ Equated from Sanskrit, this is analyzed as ‘yoga is the removal of the changes of the mind.’ Today, most yoga students exercise a form of yoga known as Hatha Yoga, which is the physical practice of yoga and is the foundation for a number of other styles of yoga, consisting of Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and High Efficiency Yoga. To accomplish that state of mind, Hatha Yoga practitioners focus on breathing throughout their practice.


The Yoga Sutras state there are 8 limbs of yoga: restraint (yamas), observances or practices of self-training (niyamas), postures (asana), growth of breath and prana (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and refined concentration (samadhi). The fourth limb, pranayama, concentrates on how an individual can utilize the breath to link the body and mind.


‘Yoga practice is a breathing practice, firstly,’ says Jules Mitchell, a Los Angeles-based signed up yoga teacher. ‘Without the mindfulness of the breath, yoga practice would be no different than exercise. In yoga, we utilize the breath to bring the mind and the body together.’


There are 4 kinds of pranayama: exhalation, inhalation, transition and constant prana. Prana describes the life-sustaining force within all living organisms that links every living being to the universe. The repeated practice of continuous prana is thought to be the most vital of the 4 types of pranayama as it allows the specialist to much better gain access to prana. Exercising continuous prana is an exercise in going beyond breathing as we know it and comes after mastering exhalation, inhalation and change.


In its most basic type, pranayama is mindful breathing. ‘Conscious breathing can be concentrate on structure, equalization of inhales and exhales, noise of the breath, velocity of the breathing rhythm, or linking each breath with a number or a blessed mantra syllable,’ states Steve Ilg, creator of High Efficiency Yoga. Mantras involve chanting a word, such as ‘Aum/Om’ or expressions like ‘Sa Ta Na Ma’ which are thought about to be the 5 primal sounds of the universe.


Hatha yoga is translated to imply the union of the sun and the moon. According to Ilg, ‘The sun (ha) implies Pingali Nadi or the Tawny Current and is associated with the subtle channel canceling in the ideal nostril regulating such inner aspects as heat, lightness and the sympathetic nerves. The moon (tha) implies Ida Nadi, or the Comfort Current, and is connected to the subtle channel terminating in the left nostril regulating such inner aspects as coldness, heaviness and the parasympathetic nervous system. A trademark point in a yoga student’s practice is to balance, through recurring breathing and cleaning routines, these two channels.’