The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama [NOOK Book]

The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama

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Overview

For
several thousand years, yogis have drawn on the powerful practice of pranayama,
a technique of controlling the breath to maximize
prana
or life energy. Pranayama has been practiced to rejuvenate the body and as a
means of self-study and self-transformation. While most yoga practitioners
today focus on
asanas,
or body postures, a growing number of people are learning the complementary
practice of pranayama to deepen and enrich their practice.

The
Yoga of Breath

is a guide to learning the fundamentals of pranayama and incorporating them
into an existing yoga practice. Rosen's approach is easy to follow with
step-by-step descriptions of breath and body awareness exercises accompanied by
clear illustrations. The book also covers the history and philosophy of
pranayama, offers useful practice tips, and teaches readers how to use props to
enhance the exercises.


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Richard Rosen's new book The Yoga of Breath is a welcome addition to the few pranayama literature issued in the past decade or so; it will help dedicated yogis keep their spiritual instruments properly strung and finely tuned."—Yoga Journal

"Richard Rosen has written a beautiful and substantial work on pranayama. It is at once modern and classical. Brilliantly engaging and accessible, it is a guide to practice that can become a companion for life. I recommend it unequivocally to students and teachers alike."—Patricia Walden, cofounder of the B. K. S. Iyengar Yoga Studio

"Pranayama is a vitally important part of traditional Hatha-Yoga. Richard Rosen has rendered a most valuable yeoman service by making this widely neglected practice accessible to Western practitioners. I highly recommend this work."—George Feuerstein, Ph.D., author of The Shambhala Guide to Yoga

"Richard Rosen acts as our pranayama tour guide by honestly sharing his own travels, both inward and outward. And he has done it the way all great teachers do: He points to the map and then makes sure we go on our own journey and don't just keep looking at his finger. The Yoga of Breath shows us how to find time, how to work with our mind, cultivate patience, experience more spaciousness, and be playful—all that by breathing in and breathing out. I'm inspired!"—Cyndi Lee, director of the Om Yoga Center

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834825789
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/6/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 291,586
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Richard Rosen is a graduate of the Iyengar Institute of San Francisco and has been teaching yoga since 1987. He is a contributing editor at Yoga Journal magazine and director of and one of the principal teachers at the Piedmont Yoga Studio (cofounded by Rodney Yee), in Oakland, California. Many of Rosen’s practice instructions and technical teachings are posted on the Piedmont Yoga Studio website, piedmontyoga.com.

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Read an Excerpt

From
Chapter 1: The Yoga of Breathing


All
life is yoga.—Sri Aurobindo,
The
Synthesis of Yoga


Yoga

The
classical or literary language of India is Sanskrit. The word itself means
"well or completely formed, perfected." Sanskrit is indeed a
beautiful and highly evocative language. Many of its words remind me of a
Russian doll, which opens up to reveal a smaller doll inside, and which in its
turn opens to reveal an even smaller doll, and so on and on until the littlest
doll is exposed. Even though I don't know the language well, 1 can find my way
around in a Sanskrit-English dictionary. I like to look up words in the yoga
lexicon and pull them apart to see what's inside. This often gives me new
insights into my practice. We'll be unraveling Sanskrit words as we go through
this guide. Your practice will be enriched by the hidden meanings in this
perfect language.

Let's
start with a word that may already be familiar to you—the Sanskrit verb
yuj,
which
means to "yoke" or "harness." It's a relic of an age, many
thousands of years ago, when Indian warriors rode into battle in chariots.
These wagons typically carried an archer and his driver or charioteer and were
drawn by two horses, which had the reputation of being rather ferocious.
"At his deep neigh," sings one old hymn about the cry of a warhorse,
"like the thunder of heaven / the foemen tremble in fear." It was the
charioteer's task to hitch these barely tamed beasts to the chariot, no small
feat in the days before the invention of the yoke. He needed both extraordinary
bravery and skill, and as a consequence, his position was highly esteemed.

In
the everyday language, yuj assumed the sense of "unite, connect, add,
bring together," as well as—since the occupation of yoking or harnessing
implied that the charioteer had learned a particular technique that got the
chariot up and running—"make ready, prepare, set to work, employ,
apply." Two notions, then, of a desired end and its means are conveyed by
the verb yuj and its several derivatives, including the masculine noun yoga.

The
practice of yoga is very old. There were surely contemporaries of our
charioteer who were engaged in some form of yoga, though it probably didn't
exactly resemble what we call yoga today. In general, yoga has four goals:

1. Regeneration
or health, and the end of suffering

2. Skillful
action

3. Integration
or self-knowledge

4. Liberation

In
much of the sacred literature of India, liberation (moksha) is explained as the
yoking or joining of the embodied soul (jiva-atman) to the Great Self
(parama-atman). Both yoke and join, by the way, are cognate with yuj and yoga.
This is a pointed allusion to the charioteer, his horses, and the chariot. One
of the most famous parables in the Upanishads recalls and plays upon this root
meaning:


Know
thou the soul (atman, self) as riding in a chariot,

The
body as the chariot.

Know
thou the intellect (buddhi) as the chariot-driver,

And
the mind (manas) as the reins.

The
senses (indriya), they say, are the horses;

The
objects of sense, what they range over.

He
who has not understanding,

Whose
mind is not constantly held firm—

His
senses are uncontrolled, Like the vicious horses of a chariot-driver.

He,
however, who has the understanding of a chariot-driver,

A
man who reins in his mind—He reaches the end of his journey,

The
highest place of Vishnu.

Yoking
is accomplished in a wide variety of ways, depending on which school of yoga
you follow. In
The
Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga,
the
scholar Georg Feuerstein catalogues nearly forty different schools of yoga
suitable for different personalities or temperaments. Six schools are generally
considered principal: classical or raja (royal), hatha (forceful), mantra
(hymn), jnana (wisdom), bhakti (devotion), and karma (selfless action). It
seems fitting that a word so closely associated with the meaning of union can
embrace so many disparate schools.

While
this union of the embodied self and the Great Self (paramaatman or brahman) is
usually the stated goal of yoga practice, it's not always the case. The most
prominent exception is the classical school of Patanjali, known as Raja-Yoga.
Patanjali doesn't recognize a Great Self, though he does acknowledge a deity
called the Lord (Ishvara), considered a special self (purusha-vishesha) among
an infinite number regular selves (purusha). Patanjali defines classical yoga
as the "restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness (Yoga-Sutra
1.2)," which suggests the strenuous and risky job of harnessing itself, of
bringing the skittish thoughts and rearing emotions under control.

However
the supreme attainment is imagined, whether as a blissful merging with the
Great Self or the quelling of the vicious horses of consciousness and nature,
yogis emphasize both practice and study, especially study of sacred texts and
self-study (svadhyaya, literally "going into one's own self").
Practice has two poles—an active pole that entails intense and persistent
exertion (abhyasa) and a passive one that encourages what yoga tradition calls
samatva, an attitude of evenness or equanimity toward the world. Yoga practice
is a balancing act between doing and not-doing: we must somehow exhibit all the
prowess of the charioteer in mastering his horses and yet remain the same
whether in success or failure.



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Table of Contents

Foreword
by Rodney Yee

vii

Acknowledgments
xi

Colloquy
of the Vital Breaths

(Prana-Samvada) xiii

Introduction: Lions,
Elephants, Tigers

1

PART
ONE: Clarification

1. The
Yoga of Breathing 13

2.
Shining Forth 21

3.
Obstacles and Helpers (Antaraya and Pari-karman) 38

4. Props
48

5.
Practice Tips 58

6.
Pranayama Journal 64

PART
TWO: Cooperation

7. The
Witness (Sakshin) 71

8. Corpse:
Introduction to Shavasana
77
9. Mapping
the "Gross Body" in Corpse
85
10. Quieting
the Sense Organs in Corpse
108
11. Qualities
of the Breath: Time, Texture, Space, and Rest 122

12.
Unusual Breathing 134

PART
THREE: Comprehension

13.
Reclining Supports 153

14. Posture
(Asana)
161
15. Chair
Seat 190

16. Traditional
Seats
201

PART
FOUR: Completion

17.
Tools (Upaya) 219

18.
Conqueror's Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) 236

19.
Against-the-Grain Breath (Viloma Pranayama) 247

20.
Locks and Retention (Bandha and Kumbhaka) 254

Appendix
1: Practice Schedule Outline 271

Appendix
2: Breathing with a Friend 280

Appendix
3: Yoga Props 289

Notes
291

Glossary
297

Recommended
Reading

301

Index
of Practices

303


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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Very thourough.

    I am not finished reading. I skip around. What I have read so far is very interesting. I do take yoga classes 3 times a weak. This is a companion book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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