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Instructor Laurie Hyland Robertson Choses Pranayama

Pranayama, commonly connected with Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga,  is the practice of controlling or extending the breath. The word Pranayama is composed of two Sanskrit words, “prana” (life force) and “ayama” (to restrain/control). Have you ever held your breath on accident, or had one of those days where you feel like you can’t breath? Practicing this type of yoga is an amazing way to learn how to tame that unpredictable nervous system.

Instructor Laurie Hyland Robertson, MS, C-IAYT, favors Pranayama over other types of yoga and makes a point to include controlled breathing in all her classes. Teaching yoga and pilates for over nine years, at Whole Yoga & Pilates she applies Pranayama to Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Pilates and Meditation.

When we asked her why she favors this practice, Laurie told us:

“Pranayama! I love that I can affect my whole system in a profound way through the meditative power of breath. I can tailor the specific pranayama to meet my needs at a given time.”

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Intentionally altering the breath to produce specific results from the body gives us a sense of discipline. Therapists often advise their patients to practice composed breathing techniques when they become anxious or start to lose control of the breath in order to calm the nervous system and restrain from a panic attack or episode. Usually, we don’t really have to think about controlling the breath … I mean, our body’s autonomic nervous system controls it for us, as it does many other functions in the body. However, practicing Pranayama can not only calm the nerves, but the extra oxygen being essentially pumped to the brain can decrease our stress levels and improve alertness and energy levels during the day.


Apparently, during normal breathing, we tend to only fill up our lungs a fraction of their full capacity. Practicing deep breathing, we can teach our bodies over time  to fill up a larger if not the full portion of our lungs when inhaling normally. Learn how to practice the deep breathing technique of Pranayama here.

   Fast breathing is another breathing exercise practiced in Pranayama. Most consider this movement, along with the deep breathing technique,  to be the two most important to use. When breathing fast, you would need to speed up your respiration rate to about 100 breaths per minute; That’s almost two breaths a second! This may seem like you are basically supposed to  make yourself hyperventilate, but it’s different I assure you. instead of shallow small breaths, you are inhaling and exhaling large deep breaths quickly and forcefully, moving both your chest and abdominal muscles. Learn how to practice the fast breathing technique of Pranayama here.    

I would definitely consider adding Pranayama as a great pre-workout practice before every yoga session you have. Learning how to fill your lungs to their full capacity when breathing can be extremely beneficial to your health. Maybe our autonomic nervous systems have it all under control, but a little lesson on how to breath more efficiently for the function of our bodies doesn’t seem, even in the slightest, to be such a bad idea.