Pranayama is a powerful tool for transformation and relief with many applications for everyday life. Stacey Swan gave us a little more insight about what the practice is and how consistent training can improve your health.
Tell us a little bit about pranayama in general – what does that mean? How is it incorporated into a regular yoga practice?
In Sanskrit, pranayama literally translates to “extending or stretching prana”. Prana is our life force or vitality or energy, (think like chi in Chinese medicine) and it can flow easily through the system, be blocked, or leak out. Pranayama are breathing exercises which help to improve the containment and flow of prana within the body. Classically, pranayama is done between asana and meditation, but can also be done as a stand alone practice.
What are some types of pranayama technique that people may already be familiar with?
Many pranayama techniques involve using ujjayi breath, so students who practice asana are familiar and comfortable with producing the sound of ujjayi already. However, pranayama is classically done seated, so this can challenge students not used to practicing stillness in the outer body.
Can beginners to yoga learn pranayama techniques?
There are a some pranayama techniques that are suitable for beginners, and these will help prepare for more advanced techniques.
What kind of benefits does pranayama provide? Both specific to yoga practice and in daily life? Are there additional fitness benefits?
One of the main benefits is increasing the flow of prana (or vitality) throughout the system which according to Yoga, will improve our overall health: mind, body, emotions, mind, spirit. Pranayama can increase your breath capacity over time, and will positively affect your lungs, heart, and muscles surrounding those areas. Pranayama is a more subtle practice than asana, and therefore requires a lot of attention, and for this reason it is a great challenge to our minds! The ratio of inhale to exhale is what can affect how you feel afterwards (ie. more alert/activated VS. more relaxed/internally focused).
Can you share with us a little bit about how your yogic journey has included pranayama? When were you first introduced to it? How has it changed your practice?
Absolutely! I didn’t study pranayama in depth until I enrolled in my 500hr Viniyoga teacher training program which was 5 years after graduating from my 200hr certificate program. Studying pranayama was the final push that got me to move in the direction of quitting smoking. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t breathe well, but didn’t notice it in my asana practice so pranayama is what helped me to realize I needed to stop. Also, I used pranayama after quitting to help heal my lungs! Thank you pranayama!!!
Anything unexpected about pranayama that yogis might be surprised at?
There are many different techniques with varied applications. We will cover a lot of different techniques in the workshop that address the following symptoms: sleeplessness, hot flashes, nervousness, nausea, and more!
What were your goals in offering this workshop? Why are you giving this gift to the studio? What are you hoping people will get out of the workshop?
I wanted to offer an opportunity for our TT graduates AND regular students to deepen their practice of yoga, and widen their yoga tool kit to include techniques besides asana. Pranayama is potent, even though it can be done in a shorter amount of time than asana and without a yoga mat so it is a great “on the go” practice! Perfect for us city-slickers! I am sharing this practice with others because it has helped me so much. :]
How can advanced yogis benefit from this training?
My hope is that advanced practitioners can incorporate this into their daily practice! You can do pranayama in 10-15 minutes! Perfect for busy adults! It is a great preparation for meditation as well.
How can this training help current and future yoga teachers?
This workshop will help them to expand their offerings as teachers, and deepen their personal practice.
The workshop is called “Pranayama: Breathing for Transformation” – can you explain what you mean by transformation in this case? Transformation as in… afterwards you feel different… but the “how” you feel different depends on which kind of pranayama you practice. <3