Updated: Jan 17
The 3 pillars of Practicing Yoga: Pranayama, Meditation and Asanas
Yoga is a term that speaks to your body, soul and mind. It is an endless journey from you, to you and through you. While the practice of yoga may have begun for you through its physical aspects of asanas, it also engages with your mind and provides holistic benefits. One can imagine yoga to be a flourishing tree with its roots deeply woven in Asanas (physical postures), Meditations (calming of the mind) and Pranayama (conscious breath control). All three are equally important to master your yogic journey. You can choose to practice each pillar of yoga in separate sessions or incorporate them in your practice together.
Mastering the Practice of Pranayama
While the practice of Pranayama is aimed at controlling your breathing, a practitioner can also practice sitting comfortably and focusing their attention for an extended period, performing breathing exercises correctly that revitalizes your body and the spirit and also calms your mental state of mind. One can master their basic Hatha yoga poses before working to control the life force, i.e. controlling their breath through pranayama.
Embracing Breathing with Asanas
According to the guidance of the ancient Patanjali yoga sutra, a practitioner should not initiate Pranayama before practising Asana but only when one is fully relaxed in Shavasana and alert and not sleepy.
That being said, a simple breathing pattern is monitored when performing your asanas. Later, practitioners can add gentle ujjayi breathing (victoriuos breath) to the pose altering patterns of long and short inhalations and exhalations to encourage a focus on breaths.
Different schools of yoga may teach and practice Pranayama along with different physical postures or asanas. Depending on their school of belief the implementation of pranayama in your asanas may differ.
One can practice Sukshma Vyama or light exercises to loosen up followed by Asanas, Pranayama and then Meditation.
Pranayama and Meditations are not the same
While the practice of pranayama and meditation may seem similar, they aren’t the same. Working on the same technique involving concentration and breathing, Meditation is a practice focusing on the awareness of our thoughts and patterns, while pranayama is a practice of refining breathing ability and creating awareness of the flow of your breathing.
Practising Asana, Pranayama & Meditation
Beginning your yoga session with a five-minute meditation allows you to practice mindfulness using your breath as a reference point for being in the present. The practice of mindfulness encourages you to focus on your thoughts instead of getting rid of them, embracing them and letting go of them as you come back to your breath.
This can be followed by light pranayama that relaxes your body and carries the fresh source of energy in every part of your body. Later you can continue with a full session of asanas with at least 10 minutes of shavasana (corpse pose) to help you relax. Asanas help you in removing physical blockages in the body and allow a free flow of energy. After you practice Asanas, you can indulge in a longer session of pranayama and finally practice 30 minutes of seated meditation.
Since the journey of yoga is deeply rooted in you, the incorporation of Meditation, Asanas and Pranayama in your lifestyle is largely dependent on yourself.