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International Infopage for Ashtanga Yoga

Sadhana Pada

Sentence 49

tasmin sati shvasa prashvasyor gati vichchhedah pranayamah ||49||

तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वास्योर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः ॥४९॥

tasmin sati śvāsa-praśvāsyor-gati-vicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ ||49||

Once harmony with the physical body has been achieved, through interruption of the movement engendered by inhaling and exhaling you attempt to harmonize your energy (pranayama). ||49||


tasmin = after this; after asana
sati = being accomplished
śvāsa = inhaling
praśvāsyoḥ = (from praśvāsa) exhaling
gati = movement
vicchedaḥ = (nom from viccheda) interruption; braking; ceasing; mastering
prāṇa = life force; life energy
yāma = bind; regulate
āyāma = release; liberate
prāṇāyāmaḥ = (nom. from prāṇāyāma) harmony with life energy; yoga breathing excercises

prāṇāyāma

Translating prāṇā as “energy,” yāma as “control” and ayāma as “freedom” makes it clear that prāṇāyāma entails (a) working on your energy (as indicated by the pun yāma, ayāma); and (b) controlling and freeing up energy. Thus prāṇāyāma brings you into harmony with your own energy. Working on your energetic body is the logical outgrowth of working on your body. My students often ask me when they will be ready for prāṇāyāma. My own teacher, Pattabhi Jois, used to reflexively answer this question as follows:

"Once a state of āsna has been attained, then prāṇāyāma begins"

"Āsana perfection; prāṇāyāma starting".

Many of my pupils find this response perplexing at the semantic level. In point of fact, prāṇāyāma is a direct outgrowth of the practice of āsana-vinyāsa. The initial stages of your yoga practice center around your body in that you experience your muscles, joints, and bones and work on your outer form. Through regular practice, you attain harmony with your physical body, and in so doing you find an skt~aasana~~ practice that suits you. You then realize that this practice has not only changed your physical body, but has also wrought numerous profound internal changes as well. You will notice how energy moves and flows within you and are now on the threshold of prāṇāyāma. Suddenly your breathing will become the focus of your yoga practice, since for the yogi, breathing is the connecting link between the physical and energetic worlds. Harmony with your breathing will bring you into harmony with your energy.
In aṣṭā“nga yoga, prāṇāyāma is ingeniously interwoven with Āsana work, in a process known as āsana-vinyāsa, which is also good for your overall health. Most people lead sedendatry lives, but exercise is essential for physical and mental health. It therefore makes sense to combine spiritual practice with dynamic movements, particularly in today’s hectic world. Yoga is a practice that is beneficial for your physical and spiritual well being.
Aṣṭāṅga yoga also offers a number of special prāṇāyāma techniques for particularly dedicated yogis. These techniques are realized in a sitting position, as well as for āsana-vinyāsa practice, and should thus be carried out solely by aspirants who do yoga more than two hours daily.

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