Patanjali Yoga Sutra of the Month
Sutra II:49 Tasmin sati shvasa prashvasa yor gati vicchedah pranayamah
The perfection of yogic posture, asana, is culminated in pranayama, the direction and liberation of life force accessed through breathing practices. When new to Yoga, we are apt to work from the outside in, and maneuver our way into the asana. Once we have muscled our way in, rather than breathe, we might choke out a few breaths.
Patanjali reminds us that the purpose of the asana is to access and open our personal energy fields and to connect with the deeper layers of the psyche. The Yoga Master Krshnamacharya taught that we should practice postures to open the breath, rather than perform the posture and then add breath.
Too often we sacrifice our integrity for the glory of the pose, and may actually be doing ourselves more harm than good. If we take in honest and complete breaths, then we move into the posture only as deep as we can honestly maintain an open breath. To take a complete breath means to really relax and let go, this inevitably deepens the posture as well as align both the inner and outer sheaths of the body-mind complex.