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[Yoga Home][Postures][Breathing][HolisticOnline Home][Meditation][Prayer]

Safety of Breathing Exercises:

Pranayama is safe provided you follow some common sense rules. If you are suffering from a breath related problem such as asthma, emphysema, shortness of breath etc. it is only common sense to talk to your physician and get a clearance before embarking on to serious breathing exercises. There are some breathing exercises that can induce dizziness or loss of consciousness. If you are prone to dizziness or loss of consciousness, avoid these exercises or assume a suitable posture to minimize problems during the exercise (such as lying down rather than standing up.)

Keep in mind that the biggest problem encountered by beginning yoga students are the tendency to push beyond the limits. These exercises should be done so that it is enjoyable. Know your limits. Do not push it so that it become hard on you. If you proceed slowly and carefully, you can attain the ultimate in yoga. But it may take some time. Remember, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’

Gunaji, author of ‘Scientific and Efficient Breathing’, recommends the following general principles:

  1. Breathing exercises should never be pushed to the point of weariness or exhaustion.
  2. Exercises should not be repeated too often.
  3. They should not be merely mechanical.
  4. There should be no hurry or haste.
  5. Attention should be concentrated on the exercise while it is being performed.
  6. There should always be variety and change in the exercises.
  7. Exercise should always be gentle and nonviolent.
  8. Breathing should not be jerky or irregular, but smooth, steady and continuous.

Pranayama and other yoga breathing practices emphasize conscious breathing. As long as we pay close attention to the reaction of the body during these breathing practices, we have nothing to fear.

Problems can arise when we alter the breath and do not recognize or attend to a negative bodily reaction. If someone is laboring to breathe deeply and evenly, it will immediately become apparent; he or she will feel the need to take a quick breath in between the long, slow breaths. One important precept of Ayurvedic medicine is never to suppress the body's natural urges. Even during pranayama practice we should let ourselves take a short breath if we feel the need to do that. Pranayama should only be practiced by people who can really regulate the breath. Those who suffer from chronic shortness of breath or other breathing disorders should not attempt pranayama until they are ready for it. Asanas that increase the volume of the lungs and free the muscles of the ribs, back, and diaphragm can help prepare one for pranayama. For example, a back bend and a forward bend are helpful in preparing for pranayama. An appropriate Asana practice will encourage development of pranayama. Pranayama can and should be practiced in the early days of a person's discovery of yoga, and should absolutely be undertaken only with the guidance of a good teacher.

Please note that, the most important part of pranayama is the exhalation. If the quality of the exhalation is not good, the quality of the whole pranayama practice is adversely affected. When someone is not able to breathe out slowly and quietly it means that he or she is not ready for pranayama, either mentally or otherwise. Indeed, some texts give this warning: if the inhalation is rough we do not have to worry, but if the exhalation is uneven it is a sign of illness, either present or impending. Many people have the mistaken notion that the most important part is holding the breath and they do not give proper attention to the exhalation process. This is a big mistake.

Go To: Patterns of Rest Between Inhalation and Exhalation

[Yoga Home][Postures][Breathing][HolisticOnline Home][Meditation][Prayer]

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