"PRANAYAMA IS THE HEART OF YOGA"
~ B.K.S. IYENGAR
THE FOURTH STEP OF YOGA
"dharanasu cha yogyata manasah"
(And, the mind attains the ability to concentrate)
- Yogasutra 2.53 ; Trans. by Swami Venkatesananda
The intimate connection between breathing and regions of the brain that control attention, sleep and stress regulation means that loving attention to breath can help deepen your understanding of your mind and emotional states, so they are easier to manage.
Yoga, outside its root-culture, particularly in Western societies, is often mis-recognized as mastery over poses. But the core teachings of Yoga emphasize that the secret of Yoga, is not in achieving the postures or asanas, but in balancing the breath. Maintaining the slow, rhythmic cadence of the breath through all postures and situations in life is the goal of Pranayama. And once established, this practice becomes the principal catalyst that helps access sustained concentration (dharana) and deep meditative states (dhyanam).
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, a seminal text on the 8-fold path of Yoga.
The experience of Pranayama is four-fold.
Asana (A-sa-na)/Seat: Becoming comfortable, grounded and fully established in one's seat is a critical milestone that helps you access the deeper experience of your Pranayama practice, whether it is the application of the bandhas (energetic locks) or a simple Sama Vritti Pranayama (equal parts breathing), loosely translated in recent times as cardiac coherence, in the context of biofeedback response