Pranayama Practices

There are over 100 pranayama practices mentioned throughout the Sanskrit texts on pranayama, many of which are considered essentials at varying levels of practise.


It is very important to understand that the energizing in certain pranayama techniques is very strong, and if the nadis (subtle channels) are ‘plugged’, or ‘impure’, then problems may occur.

That is why most pranayama techniques are regarded by experienced teachers of yoga to be more advanced practices that require first a foundational practice in other aspects of yoga, namely yoga asanas, certain kriyas, and basic breathing practices to prepare the body for the strong energies manipulated in pranayama.

So it is with this ‘preliminary cleansing’ that the beginner must be concerned. The basic pranayama practices that you are being introduced to in this short course provide an important foundation for cleansing on a gross level as well as a preparation for advancing practices.

The Control of Prana

It is the power of mental concentration, or the mind that enables one to affect, at will, the pranic flow. So it is in pranayama techniques, as with all other yoga techniques, that the mind is the ultimate power behind the practice.

In fact, it can be said that concentration of the mind is even more important in pranayama than it is with the asanas. Without the appropriate use of the mind (or rather, the concentration) the techniques amount to mere physicalities.

One of the most important truths that we’ll continue to realize in our exploration of yoga is that ‘where the mind goes, so will prana’. Mind can direct, activate, block or use prana, both for productive as well as destructive ends.

Bad Mental Habits

It is, unfortunately, a fact that most of us have developed powerful, unconscious mental strengths in the form of patterns or conditioned ways of thinking. It is for this very reason that we continue to manifest the same tendencies over and over again, and hence the same results in our lives.

We may be unconsciously directing powerful thought-waves which keep us in a certain career path or financial status; or continue to place us in the same forms of relationships, either wholesome or destructive; or manifest a repeating pattern of health, be it good or bad.

This reality of the power of mind over prana is something that we must take out of the realm of ‘unconsciousness’ and make it ‘conscious’, so that we can not only begin to direct our lives in more productive ways, but also in more spiritually evolutionary ways as well.

Thus we can see that the real control of prana necessitates the development of a disciplined and controlled mind. This is why the practice of pranayama in its classical sense, comes later, after appropriate cleansing and developing of the power of mental focus has been attained.

Most books on the commercial shelves today, therefore, are errant in their presentation of pranayama. Most talk about pranayama without even talking about prana. Some are filled with physiological and anatomical terminology with chapters of ‘mechanical breathing’ techniques without as much as a mention of the mind and mental focus.

Many modern yoga writers neglect to mention pranayama at all, leaving the impression that pranayama practices are not important.

Sukha Purvaka Pranayama

The Sanskrit word sukham means easy or pleasant. Purvah refers to ‘prior’ or ‘that which precedes’. Therefore, sukha purvaka pranayama means “the simple breath which must be mastered before proceeding to more difficult pranayamas” …

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