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yoga without pranayama

happyyoga2010-07-05 04:31:17 +0000 #1
i dont have a yoga instructor, just been doing videos/books only the last few years. and i keep reading how dangerous pranayama is (especially without an experienced guru guiding you)

my question is is there a yoga style that does asanas but not pranayama? I also do tai chi and taichi says never to hold the breath or do anything other than breath naturally. I find that i dont need pranayama to feel energzied or calm... the asanas alone get me energized or calm. ive been mainly studying hatha yoga but hathas MAIN thing is breath control and i dont wanna end up with mental problems from doing them
Chandra2010-07-05 04:35:08 +0000 #2
Dear Happyyoga,

Yogasana is one 8 limbs of Classical Yoga practice. Asana practice permits us to become more sensitive to the physical aspect of our being. Pranayama is a practice which integrates our physical with the other layers of our being, mental, emotional, and subtle life force (prana) - known in other traditions as Qi, Chi, or Spirit.

There are many forms of pranayama, and these have differing effects on our mental state and consciousness. It is recommended that you practice pranayama under the guidance of someone who has experienced these effects and can support and guide you as you chart previously unknown territory.

The simplest form of pranayam is simple breath awareness. Becoming familiar with the pattern, the rhythm and flow of your breath under various conditions (ease, stress, physical or emotional challenge), you can learn much about how you are in relationship to yourself, your thoughts and emotions, and others. It is a heightening and deepening of awareness.

If your goals in practicing asana are for exercise alone, you may want to find a teacher in the YOGAFIT tradition. To experience yoga as a process of wholistic development, I would recommend finding an experienced teacher who can introduce you to pranayama.

If you are interested in a basic breath awareness practice, you can simply sit in a comfortable position with the spine lengthened, and turn your awareness inward, observing the flow of breath as it enters and leaves your body. I instruct my beginning students to begin with simple breath awareness, and to maintain that during asana practice. The breath becomes one's teacher. When we are calm and there is a relaxation of effort, the breath is naturally relaxed. When we are forcing or resisting, the breath pattern becomes forced as well. In this way, we link our asana practice to pranayama practice, becoming conscious of more subtle aspects of asana practice.


happyyoga2010-07-05 04:50:20 +0000 #3
Thanks for replying.

I'm not new to the concept of breath awareness. I have been studying the breath for about 10 years now from various sources (tai chi, martial arts, meditation, yoga, psychology, hypnosis, and tons of breathing/relaxation techniques)

However even with all this study i find that the idea of most pranayama that aims to "control" the breath for archaic breathing techniques (that often have to do with holding the breath) range from not good for you to extremely bad for you. I do not practice yoga just for exercise, and i find that the asanas AND the philosphical side of yoga remains extremely amazing in it's approach after hundreds and hundreds of years.

However, i'm not so sure the breathing (pranayama) aspects of yoga are still practical after what current research has shown about them. The researchers at even go on to say that pranayama is a bad idea most of the time and every taichi master i've known says to never hold the breath.

So if simple "deep natural breathing" without any holding of the breath, is considered perfect and all you need to relax, why do yogis strive to control the breath? it's clearly to go beyong simple relaxation. My question is are the altered states of conciousness they must induce healthy?

I would like to someday teach yoga, but i don't want to teach (nor study) pranayama if i dont believe in it beyond simple breath awareness. So it would be suitable for me if i could train in a branch of yoga that focuses on asana (with simple breath awareness but not extreme exercises). Do you know such a style?
Chandra2010-07-05 05:08:17 +0000 #4
I have certification from White Lotus Yoga Foundation and through Mukunda Stiles in Structural Yoga, and have had various workshops and trainings in other traditions. As an instructor, I need to experience the benefits of any pranayama which I teach, and be able to offer each student the practice which most suits their needs and goals.

Altered states of consciousness, are not necessarily those desired outcomes. Clarity, grounded and stable awareness of Reality, effects on the nervous system to assist to soothe or to invigorate as needed fall more squarely in my use of pranayama. I do not practice nor encourage any sort of forced breath holding or control. When you say you do not "believe in it", I am hearing you say you do not believe there is a benefit to practicing it, as you clearly believe that such a practice has an effect. Understanding the purpose of the pranayama, and applying it in the correct manner to obtain the desired benefit requires training and experience.

I teach primarily 3 part wave breath, Ujjayi (Ocean Sounding) and alternate nostril breathing in group settings. These are generally calming and soothing practices. Additional pranayam practice is individualized.

I do not know of any school of yoga which does not include a component of Pranayama.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras refer to pranayama in II47 to II 53. Serving as a gateway to meditation, and transforming our practice from one of an external to an internal practice - the mind becomes fit for contemplation.

Interesting post, glad to hear your concerns and perspectives. Would be interested to hear from others.


Chandra2010-07-05 06:12:47 +0000 #5
I went to Mukunda for his comments on this topic - see below.



25 May 2005 22:13

Post subject: Pranayama

Dear Mukunda,

There have been several posts on the General Discussion forum regarding the hazards and dangers of a Pranayama practice. Some are looking for a style of yoga which omits pranayama, others are concerned about anxiety, unsteady heart beats and other disturbances.

Your insight and comments regarding Pranayama, its benefits, its dangers and the need for proper guidance would be highly appreciated.

Jai Jai Ma,


18 Jun 2005 21:20

Post subject: Pranayama

In general my major recommendation is to not mix styles. Every yoga tradition has a different direction (intention) for pranyama. One can learn the same named technique from 3 or 4 different schools and their prana and mind become confused. Thus its benefits are lost.

Optimal is to study deeply in one tradition that encorporates pranayama as a tool in the direction you wish to pursue. the basic practices balance the mind and can create peace; as in the Sivananda lineage. Other methods focus on pranayama as a healing tool for being free of physical or psychological diseases; as in the Bihar School. Some for directing the mind into positive thoughts and empowering prayer; as in Ananda Yoga. A few focus on pranayama for its ability to awaken the spiritual force and deepen devotion to the God/dess of your understanding; as in Kundalini and Tantrik Yogas. Still other focus on pranayama for maintaining mindfulness as in Asthanga Yoga. Many different directions. Best is to find a teacher you respect, one who has gone deep in the direction you wish to pursue.

namaste mukunda
gartxott2010-07-05 06:00:41 +0000 #6

Paranayama, as asana, is one of the five steps that build the sequenze which leads to the final goal (samadhi). In this way, mastery of asana is a must so that 'real' pranayama happens (prana, and not only breath, control). When 'real' pranayama occurs, the state of pratyahara dawns, followed by true meditation (when mental waves flow naturally, without strain, to the object of meditation), and so forth...

In this respect, yoga without pranayama is an incomplete yoga.

It is said that the path of pranayama is prone to dangers as it may awake the coiled power too early harming the practicioner. In my opinion, nothing of this should happen in the case you behaved carefully. Do not overflow your capacity, follow the guidlines of a master, and enjoy.

Important: A satvic state of mind is a requisite when practicing it.

On the other hand, some pranayamas (for instance, auloma viloma, alternate nostril breathing) are not dangerous at all, and could be practiced by anyone.

Hope this helped.

Best regards.
amritaraj2010-07-05 07:01:26 +0000 #7
I'm also interested in practicing yoga without pranayama. Some major modern teachers seem to discourage it, e.g. Yogananda and Ammachi, with the apparent exception of Alternate Nostril Breathing in the Latter's case. Namaste
InnerAthlete2010-07-05 06:30:40 +0000 #8
I have a few thoughts but keep in mind it is very late here, well past Yogic bedtime And I'm already a bit Pitta so bear with eh?

One. A student learns pranayama the way they learn math. You learn rudimentaries first. You do not execute safe calculus before learning proper algebra, trig, division... Math is not unsafe. It has procedures and protocols tested over time. So too does pranayama. It is not pranayam that is dangerous. It is the careless instruction of calculus before division by geography teachers.

Two. Not every holy person is a holy person. Not every sage a sage. not every alruist without motive and agenda. Many claim to "levitate" but of those many only a few have truly white light. As a result, we must use care in tossing our eggs in the basket of this guru or that.

Three, there cannot be Yoga (capital Y) without Klesha, Yama, Niyama. It is not possible. Asana is possible. A warm fuzzy feeling after asana is possible. Weight management, stress reduction, and a cool chat with your friends are possible. But Yoga is not possible without Pranayama.

Four, to be concerned, to wield discernment is a very grounded, wise yogi. But dualities must always be considered. Why is it I am resisting pranayama? What else am I resisting? How am I approachhing pranayama? These are all relevant within the same vessel that "I don't want to go insane" resides.

If you don't want to practice pranayama don't practice it. But make that an informed, conscious decision from some place other than fear or anxiety.

Bottom line of this diatribe is that proper pranayama, proper guidance, attentive student, equals so much more than samadhi which, if you read Auorbindo is a stop short of the bus terminal.



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