The Yoga of Breath: A step by step guide to Pranayama

The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama
Richard Rosen ISBN-13 978-1570628894

Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम prāṇāyāma) means “restraint of the prana or breath.”  The word is composed of two Sanskrit words – Prāna, or life force (particularly breath) and āyāma, to restrain or suspend.  When used in the relationship to our yoga practice, we can think of it as breath control.  Swami Chidananda Saraswati’s definition is much more valuable, however…

Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only and this Prana is different from the breathing you have in your physical body.


The Yoga of Breath covers the philosophy and its background in Hatha Yoga.  For more than a few thousand years, yogis have made use of the powerful practices of pranayama for healing and accessing higher levels of consciousness.  Unfortunately, the practice of asanas or postures has become more the norm in the western world, leaving a very valuable component out of yoga practice.  There are a number of reasons for this, including pranayama’s ability to have harmful effects if not properly taught or illustrated.  Rather than worry about possible harm, this should be taken as an indication of the strength and effectiveness of pranayama.  Hint:  Follow the instructions, take it slow and easy…You will know when you can advance in your practice.

Richard Rosen’s book The Yoga of Breath provides a safe introduction for the modern practitioner of any Yoga discipline.  Profoundly influenced by the modern yoga master Iyengar’s book Light on Pranayama, The Yoga of Breath draws on the use of props and reclined positions to better facilitate progress in the spiritual art of controlled breathing.

A good teacher

A good teacher will never give an answer to you – never try to tell you the way it is.  In The Yoga of Breath, Rosen excels at providing the necessary groundwork by laying out a slow and direct roadmap to follow, while stepping back and pointing quietly down the path for answers.  For those wanting to incorporate a pranayama home practice into their routines, The Yoga of Breath is an excellent choice.

By adding a complementary practice of pranayama to your current yoga class – no matter what school you may follow – your practice will be deepened and enriched.  Your poses will come easier, and your ability to lengthen and deepen the stretch will also increase.  This also adds to your overall sense of well-being as well as state of daily consciousness.

In India

In India, Yoga is more than a philosophy; it is a way of daily existence.  Most common of all yogic systems practised in India is Hatha Yoga, upon which the pranayama techniques in The Yoga of Breath are based.  Hatha Yoga is designed to correct any blockages or improper flow of Prana within the body, allowing breath or vital force flow freely.  In truly understanding yoga, it must become a way of life as opposed to an activity we participate in a few times a week.  As a way of daily existence, we open ourselves to effortless action in our daily lives and a deeper, more profound experience in all our activities.

The Yoga of Breath gets, Yin YangYin YangYin YangYin YangYin Yang for its simple and straightforward information and instruction.  Certainly not as in depth as Iyengar’s works (which many find a little daunting), The Yoga of Breath is ideal for those wishing to experience Pranayama practice and results before committing themselves to more formal instructor lead studies, as well as those wanting to enrich their own practices by incorporating breathing techniques.

About the Author

Richard Rosen is a graduate of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco and has been teaching yoga since 1987. He is a contributing editor at Yoga Journal and director of the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California. He lives in Berkeley, California.

A parting gift…

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Sit in your most comfortable fashion, back and spine straight and aligned…If this makes you uncomfortable, lying down with your back flat is also fine.

Take a moment to center yourself on your breath, wherever you may watch it.  For some, this will be at the nose, for others, the belly…Still others will focus on the space between the breaths.

Take a look into your own heart and see whether there is any worry, fear, resentment, or other negative thought or emotion.  Allow these to float away like the black clouds they are, obscuring the light of your being.

Let warmth and friendship arise in your heart for yourself, realizing you must love yourself completely.  Surround yourself with loving thoughts and feel contentment arise within you, understanding you are on the path you need to be on.

Surround the person or people nearest to you with loving thoughts and fill those people with peace and wish for their happiness, whether physically if they are present, or in your heart and mind.

Think of anyone you dislike, or argue with, or do not consider a friend.  Open your heart in gratitude to those people as your teachers, teaching you about your own reactions.  Let your heart and love surround them too, forgive and forget, understanding that it is our perception that creates the difficulties.

Open up your heart to those whose lives are far more difficult than ours…Those who are sick, imprisoned, hungry, crippled, without friends or shelter.  Open up your heart and embrace all of them, show them love, wish them happiness.

Put your attention back on yourself…Feel contentment arising in you from making right effort, happiness filling your being from this simple act of giving you have just taken part in.  Become aware of these feelings; experience the warmth they create around you.


The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama
Richard Rosen ISBN-13 978-1570628894

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