Pranayama and meditation for beginners

Asanas are the most famous part of Yoga in western culture. Some people still underestimate or haven’t had the opportunity to experience the practice of pranayama and meditation, so here I will point some interesting facts about those not so well-know aspects of Yoga and how they can benefit us.

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Image: Parth Bagul for Shiva Shakti Yoga School (www.shivashaktiyoga.org)

What is Pranayama and what is it for?

Basically, Pranayama are breathing exercises of hyperventilation and hypoventilation. Prana is the vital life force and ayama means control and extension of the Pranic energy. Therefore, Pranayama is the yogic science of controlling the life energy, mainly through the control of breath. By the regular practice of Pranayama, one can energize, relax and heal the body and the mind.

Benefits of Pranayama and how it can affect your life

The quality of the breath is the quality of your life. Starting from the physical part, the practice of Pranayama strenghten the respiratory organs and increases the breathing capacity. Furthermore, the control over breath allows one to better deal with certain emotions and thoughts. For instance, as I dancer, sometimes I experience anxiety before performing on the stage, but Yoga is always there to help me, since I can use the Pranayama techniques to still my mind, connect with my inner self, bring awareness to my body and breathe properly, which influences the quality of my performance. Similarly, those who suffer from insomnia, stress, depression or other disorders can get really good benefits from practicing Pranayama in a regular basis.

Meditation: stilling the mind

Meditation is the pure state of counciousness. When you learn how to practice meditation, you are able to look inside the deepest part of your being and get connected with the cosmic counciousness. In fact, that is the goal of Yoga: the union of the universal counciousness and the individual counciousness; energy and matter, Shiva and Shakti. To put it simply, meditation helps us to still our non-stopping minds, finding our way back to ourselves and our true meaning. It is not about forcing anything – if thoughts come, let them come -, it is about being the patient observer, the one that witnesses all that is happening without judging or taking part on it, and at the same time, being the observed. With regular practice you will learn to free yourself from excessive thinking and deal with the internal noises, eventually attaining a state of calmness.

Why you should meditate

There are many techniques of meditation available for you to try and find the one that suits you best. By practicing meditation, you dettach from your physical limits and go deeper into your nature. Thus, you become able to see things from another perspective, and it is always good to know different points of view. Sometimes your problems are not as big as your mind makes them seem and the answers you are looking for outside are just there, inside yourself. Most of your questions are to be answered by yourself only, all you have to do is look whithin.

How to start

If you are interest in starting Pranayana and Meditation, that is awesome! You are in the right way. Pranayama are delicate techniques that can have opposite effects if done unproperly, so I would advise you to look for an experienced teacher that can initiate and lead you through the practices. For meditation, you can start from the basics, sitting quietly and observing what arouses on your mind. Watch yourself, honor your body and your mind and focus on your breath. There is plenty of material about meditation online and on books, so just explore. And of course, if you want to go deeper and take it to another level, find a qualified teacher that can lead you through your studies.

Hopefully soon the world will know that Yoga is not only about Asanas. There are so many interesting aspects of yoga technology that are still unknown for most people, so let’s help each other to make our human experience happier and healthier, thus creating a better world for everyone. Om Shanti!

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