How Much Is Too Much Pranayama in Yoga?

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practicing pranayama
Pranayama in Yoga

By Sangeetha Saran

“Prana” means fundamental life source and “Yama” means control. The union of these two is a necessary component of Pranayama in Yoga, which is essentially engaging in methods to control the breath. It might seem impossible that something as rudimentary as breathing could create controversy. However, once again, it is interesting to note that pretty much all things done in moderation are fine, and it is important to find the right balance when incorporating Pranayama into your yoga classes.

There are quite a few stories floating around in the yoga world about the importance of learning Pranayama from a seasoned guru. Warnings abound to prospective yoginis with the message of, “Do not try this at home.” It seems laughable, “Why, can I literally breathe myself to death?”

However, while Pranayama Yoga is a safe practice, there are always those who jump into every new experience a bit too enthusiastically, and a breathing regimen should start slowly, just the same as a physical asana practice would.

There are several things to consider when building Pranayama into your yoga classes:

Student Interest: Many students come to yoga for the physical exercise. Experienced practitioners know that is important to incorporate Pranayama into a yoga practice. Not all agree. Often, students want to jump into the physical aspect quickly, so the breathing portion of the class might be limited to 10-15 minutes in most standard yoga classes.

Don’t Try It All: With so many types of Pranayama in Yoga to choose from, it may be difficult to choose one or two to present to your students. Maybe you have practiced Bhastrika, Ujjayi, Nadi, Shitali or Anulom-Vilom and find them all to be beneficial. You can’t throw all these out there in one class. Try to choose one breathing method and stick to it for 6 weeks; allow your students to master it and then move on to another style.

Health Warnings: The fact is that most people spend their whole life not paying attention to their breathing. After a lifetime of shallow breathing, an intense breathing regimen may be contraindicated for some students, especially those who suffer from asthma. Those new to practicing Pranayama techniques may initially suffer from headaches, dizziness, lethargy, or nausea to name a few. Therefore, keep a close watch on students and look for signals of the occurrence of these maladies.

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4 thoughts on “How Much Is Too Much Pranayama in Yoga?”

  1. The article is very much helpful for Pranayama exercise. Pranayama is essentially engaging in methods to control the breath. Thanks for sharing this article.

  2. Thanks for your informative article on Pranayama. We do not have standard sequece of various types of Pranayama to incorporate in yoga classes. Although “Light on Pranayam” by Padam Vibushan B K S Iyengar is a masterpiece work. It is a bit difficult to understand without having a basic knowledge of our respiratory system.

  3. A very balanced, important, and well-written cautionary article — thank you! As with all things yogic, I believe respect is at the core: respect for the practice (in all its forms) and respect for our bodies.

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