5 Rules of a Sustainable Pranayama Practice
A beneficial, long-term, practice of Pranayama requires following the ethical restraints and rules (Yamas & Niyamas) of Yoga laid down by Sage Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, regarded as a seminal text of Yoga. In particular, there are five rules or principles that apply organically and naturally to a sustainable Pranayama practice.
1. Discipline (Tapas):
Cultivate the discipline to keep away from large quantities of aggravating foods such as processed foods and a meat-based diet.
According to various textual sources that elaborate on the concept of Prana, or life force energy, Prana manifests in the body as 5 different Vayus (vital winds), which in turn, represent the states of internal balance between elimination, digestion, circulation and overall energy. Any imbalance due to food intake, poor digestion and so on is both created by and results in Vayu Dosha (imbalance of vital winds) and is counter-indicative for a fruitful Pranayama practice.
2. Compassion (Ahimsa):
Intake of mild and moderate foods that do not involve the harming of animals is absolutely important in facilitating optimal practice. As a rule, light to moderate vegetarian meals are well-suited for long-term practice.
3. Cleanliness (Shaucha):
Cleansing the body with a shower and performing regular morning ablutions facilitates a flourishing practice. Choosing a regular, relatively clean space, to do Pranayama helps strengthen and sustain your practice.
4. Seat (Asana):
A comfortable, steady seat on the floor, a mat, a cushion or a chair and a dignified posture with an upright back body and spine are important for a sustainable practice. Posture (of body and mind during contemplation) should be firm and pleasant ("Sthira sukham asanam," Yogasutra, 2.46).
5. Non-grasping (Aparigraha):
When sitting down for practice, the breath should not be forced to grasp at any imagined or superior outcome. The breath should be slow, unhurried, harmonious and sustainable, rather than fast and arrhythmic. Advanced practitioners will find that slowing the breath down is the real sadhana (devotional practice).