The Science of Breathing
Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling the breath, lies at the heart of yoga. It has a mysterious power to soothe and revitalize a tired body, a flagging spirit, or a wild mind. The ancient sages taught that prana, the vital force circulating through us, can be cultivated and channeled through a panoply of breathing exercises. In the process, the mind is calmed, rejuvenated, and uplifted. Pranayama serves as an important bridge between the outward, active practices of yoga--like asana--and the internal, surrendering practices that lead us into deeper states of meditation.
THREE PART BREATHING
Breathe slowly and deeply while envisioning that they are filling their lungs from bottom to top--first by expanding the abdomen, then the middle rib cage, and finally the upper chest. When exhaling, students envision the breath emptying in reverse, from top to bottom, pulling in the abdomen slightly at the end to empty the lungs completely.
"Three-part deep breathing is the foundation of all the yogic breathing techniques," Karunananda says. "Studies have shown that you can take in and give out seven times as much air--that means seven times as much oxygen, seven times as much prana--in a three-part deep breath than in a shallow breath."