Yet Prana is not merely the ordinary breath, it is the energy behind the breath. Pranayama practice is not simply breath work but moving to a deeper level of energy and awareness, accessing Prana at a level through, behind and beyond the breath.
–Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) from his article Practice Pranayama to Access Higher Energies
Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe…Prana is the hub of the Wheel of Life. Everything is established in it…Therefore the Yogi takes refuge in Prana.
-BKS Iyengar, Light on Pranayama
Pranayama and I didn’t always get along. I was uncomfortable with pranayama practice. Why was I so uncomfortable? I felt agitated, constricted, and like I was going to burst from the inside out. I couldn’t rest into the energy. Was I not ready for this practice? Was I doing something wrong? Why is this so agitating? Why was I not breathing? Where was my energy going? Apparently all over the place. My energy was distracted and leaking out around me. I was unable to rest into the energy of this life force sitting within me. When, I would practice pranayama I experienced fire–a burning flame kindling with each breath in the belly of my abdomen. It was never relaxing. Containing my energy and grounding it needed practice. This has taken me time, and practice.
Enter motherhood, and pranayama is my new friend. Pranayama is like a prayer. A prayer where I rest with prana, with spirit.
Pranayama is like praying. You take time to be with your breath, time to listen, time to witness all of you, time to give yourself exactly what it needs–prana. Each breath is a prayer for yourself, a kind reminder to love yourself and be with your own magnificent-life-giving spirit.
Are you wondering where to start? Do you feel agitated and frustrated when you practice pranayama? Pranayama is preparation for meditation. If you are constantly busy and your mind is all about town, it takes time to teach the mind to be quiet. Pranayama can give us this time. Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing is nourishing for me right now. It’s balancing, and calms my sleep deprived nervous system. Start with something simple that you know you need. Fire breath or kapalabhati is not ideal for many people. It can be extremely agitating, and unsettling. Listen to what it is your body needs and step into the “energy behind the breath.”