Breath control has been important to the practice of Yoga since the earliest descriptions of yogic techniques. Whereas nowadays, posture seems to be defining a physical practice, it used to be pranayama.
Even the Buddha practised breath retention for a while and described it as some challenging austerity! It is not easy, and one must master certain techniques before attempting to play with the breath. Many ancient texts agree that it is a preliminary purificatory technique to achieve Yoga in its basic form. Yoga is some goal rather than a method. Our ancestors linked breathing to the mind and recognised that we could control our fluctuating mind through the breath.
Hatha yoga texts speak of its purificatory benefits of the energy channels. In contrast, the more extreme forms are for ascetics that wish to gain “siddhis” (power) and liberation of bondage to earthy manifestation.
When done a few times a day leading apparently to the purification of our body, one of the simplest pranayamas (alternative nostril breathing or Nadi Shodana) is done a few times a day. If you believe it purifies your energy channels or not, you can sense the calming effect on your nervous system. Pranayama is said to assist in steadying the mind, and we all agree that once we start to focus on our breathing, we feel steadier!
However, it is not about taking a deep breath but taking a long inhalation followed by an even longer exhalation. It is about to free your breath, and this is how I teach my classes.
There are still places available on the next yoga teacher training course if you want to learn more. Find out more here.