The Heart of Pranayama – by Ganesh Mohan

The Heart of Pranayama

The Yogasutra defines pranayama as stopping the breath: after a deep exhale, after a deep inhale, and after a normal breath. The hatha yoga texts specify different techniques of manipulating the breath, and the physiological effects of those techniques.

While the Yogasutra is concerned more with the mind, and hatha yoga apparently with the body, their goals are synchronous. Both pathways aim to quiet the mind. We all know that calming the breath will calm the mind.

But there is much more to traditional pranayama.

Pranayama is one of the limbs of classical yoga, the fourth among eight. Literally, the practice of pranayama is to lengthen the breath, and to stop the breath.

On one hand, the techniques of pranayama can be linked to the doshas of ayurveda—be classified as heating and cooling pranayamas. This is a way to use pranayama therapeutically.

On the other hand, deepening one’s experience of pranayama serves as an entry point to the experience of what is sometimes called the “subtle body” or “energy body.” That is, by practicing pranayama, interoceptive awareness of the body grows more refined and clear over time, allowing us to sense within us layers of body experience and mind-body connection that were inaccessible in our awareness earlier. This notion forms the foundation of the system of prana, nadis, and cakras, the part of yoga that is sometimes termed as “yoga physiology.”

Thus the heart of pranayama is the connection between mind and body that is explored using the breath. The entry to this practice is through cultivating a stable and comfortable awareness of inner body sensation in asana itself. We then deepen the practice in pranayama by finding greater absorption in that inner body awareness using the breath as a support and conduit.

 – Ganesh Mohan

Is it Yoga?

Notes on Yoga by Svastha Yoga New Zealand

Mohan 1

“There is a lot of confusion in the yoga world today – it is not that yoga teachers and students aren’t sincere, but they are sincerely confused”

This was just one of the home truths shared by A.G. Mohan on his recent visit to New Zealand. Although he said it with typical good humour – he wasn’t joking! Mohan has studied, practiced and taught yoga for over 40 years and had the great privilege of being a close personal student of the legendary yoga master T. Krishnamacharya for eighteen years. He is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable yoga teachers living today. When he comes out with a statement like that, we should all stop and listen!

More people practice yoga today than ever before; that should be a good thing – we need yoga! But is it yoga we are practicing or is it what Mohan refers to…

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The Myth of Yoga

Mythic Dimensions

Myth is one of those wonderful words that most people don’t completely understand. For most, a myth is a lie. It is a story that did not actually take place, a legend or fable. When we hear the word myth today, it often has a negative connotation, as in “Those weapons of mass destruction were a myth”.

Used in this sense, and with our title in mind, I will venture to say that commonplace presumptions of the history of yoga are in fact a myth.

Another way to understand the word myth is that it is synonymous with the word religion. Myths are the stories that inspire and bind together civilizations. Myths ultimately spring from deep within us, and the rituals associated with myth are vehicles which enable us to experience a connection between ourselves and the Mystery of life.

“It would not be too much to say…

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The Tools of Yoga Therapy

Asana: A new pattern is introduced to the body by changing the current and habituated patterns through which the body is living. (This includes alignments, posture, gait, and somatic tone.) 

Pranayama: Creation of a new breath pattern by teaching various breathing techniques, with or without ratios, either with movement, or in classically sequenced breathing practices.

Ahara and Vihara: New lifestyle patterns that may include diet and exercise.

Pratyahara: Create new patterns for the senses, literally meaning providing the “opposite food.” This presents a multitude of possibilities for the yoga therapist.

Dhyanam: New patterns for the mind which may include meditation, guided imagery, and visualizations.

Mantra: This may include a range from monosyllabic sounds to chants and prayers from different faiths and cultures, or meaningful lines from poems. 

Nyasa: Gestures and specific placements often combined with breath or visualization, which are not only palliative, but also bring attention and vitality to the region of focus.

Bhavana: Positive and supportive visualization that empowers the mind in the healing process with specific focuses.


Clinical Synergism In The Treatment Of Trauma: Yoga Therapy And Psychotherapy

Authors: Anita Claney, MS; Gina Siler, MA, MSC, LPC; Kausthub Desikachar, PhD