It takes a long time (sometimes years) to understand that the 'movement and stretches' which we know as asana in a yoga class are simply tools. And yoga provides us with many tools, including asana, mantra, meditation, kriya and pranayama which help us reach the goal of yoga, self awareness.
Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, and is the link between the physical and mental disciplines of yoga. Asana will help develop your body, and pranayama will help develop your mind.
Unfortunately pranayama isn't practiced much these days in yoga classes in the west. I think this is due to the following:
These reasons, in my opinion, are such a shame. Pranayama can offer us so much. The majority of us breathe incorrectly, which has a direct link to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Here are some reasons why we should all be taking 5 minutes a day to practice pranayama.
There are so many more benefits of pranayama. Honestly, if you go to a class which doesn't include pranayama, well that's a bummer if you ask me, but check out some techniques on youtube. I strongly advise you to practice Nadi Shodana or Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing) for learning to control the breath, and calming the mind, Kapalabhati (shining skull breath) for energy and vitality and also simple Sama Vritti or Vishama Vritti (even or uneven breathing) for a quick 5 minute destress.
Happy breathing :)
(image insert is my teacher training trainees studying pranayama in Colllingwood, Victoria 2017).
The Yoga Social Team