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An old Vedic story about Prana, found in Upanishads.  The five faculties of our nature–the mind, breath (prana), speech, ear and eye–were arguing with each other as to which one of them was the best and most important.  This reflects the ordinary human state in which our faculties are not integrated but fight with each other, competing for their rule over our attention.  To resolve this dispute they decided each would leave the body and see whose absence was most missed.

First speech left the body, but the body continued though mute.  Next the eye left, but the body continued though blind.  Next the ear left, but the body continued though deaf.  Mind left, but the body continued though unconscious.  Finally the prana began to leave and the body began to die and all the other faculties began to lose their energy.  So they all rushed to prana and told it to stay.  Prana won the argument.  Prana gives energy to all our faculties and without it their is no life.

Prana: life force, the most subtle life essence.

Yama: ethical discipline.

Ayama: extension, stretching or restraint.

Controlling the mind through proper pranayama is a process through which we can isolate our Atma (inner self) from the influences and influx of thoughts.  Through the practice of pranayama a steady mind and a balanced nervous system are attained. Pranayama can be practiced throughout your asana practice (physical postures).  I like to practice the ujjai breath (victorious breath).  It is a balancing and calming breath that increases oxygen and builds body heat.  It tones our lungs and creates a peaceful harmonious flow of prana.  Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nasal passages, making an “ocean sound” as air passes in and out.  It is okay to begin with various holds of the breath, but breath work should always be practiced with a teacher!  Always remember to love the self during your practice, and remember that having the right attitude is necessary to sustain the aspiration of a long and healthy life.  See you on the mat!

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