A question that is in the minds of many – what’s the difference between “modern” breathwork and pranayama? Let’s set this straight.
Ravi: Pranayama is Yogic Science based on the expansion of Prana Shakti, our life force energy. Breath is a tool to improve the quality and quantity of Prana in the body, but Pranayama is more subtle than just breath. When we’re working with Pranayama we are working with energy channels, called the Nadis. These Nadis are the channels where our energy flows, they exist in our body, although they are not physical, you cannot see them.
Modern Breathwork is generally more focused on the physical body and training the lungs, physical stamina and calming the mind. Pranayama is about working on the inner body, it has a stronger focus on the subtle dimensions that we can’t see, and it has a deeper connection with our physical, mental and spiritual existence.
Pranayama is also known Antar Yoga, meaning ‘inner Yoga’ Asana represent the ‘outer Yoga’, Pranayama is the inner Yoga.
Breath helps the body to maintain this life force power, it stimulates each organ to work in the right manner and heightens our level of consciousness. Stress, poor maintenance of our health or certain thoughts can create blockages in our system. Working with the principles of Pranayama can help clear our Nadis to ensure energy can circulate in our system the way it is meant to be.
The result is to feel lighter, fit, and healthy, both physically and mentally.
Your new Pranayama course focuses on immunity. What are the core principles of Pranayama that help with boosting immune system strength and resilience?
Ravi: Breath is the major tool in our body for our health. It is the main tool for life; when our breath is gone, life is gone. Pranayama calms and heals the nervous system, provides more oxygen in the blood, which in turn strengthens the immune system. Working with our breath to improve the circulation of our Prana Shakti can help resolve all kinds of problems in the body, improving immunity, not only physical but mental as well.
For those living in colder climates versus those who spend winter in warm places, do pranayama techniques differ or does it have a more universal approach?
Ravi: There are a couple of Pranayama which work better in specific weather, for instance Sheetali and Sheetkari Pranayama are meant to cool down the body as well as Chandra Bhedi Pranayama. I would recommend not practicing these in colder weather. In general, when you enjoy practicing Pranayama outdoors, if it’s very cold or windy, or the opposite with it being very hot, it’s better to go indoors for your practice.
Should we practice pranayama more in the winter?
Ravi: Just as we eat food every day and sleep every night, we should really practice Pranayama every day. Then it goes from being just a practice, to becoming a lifestyle. A regular practice of Pranayama is incredible for maintaining health.
However, adding Pranayama into your life at any point will certainly help give your body and mind a boost when we feel more tired and lethargic and to help us stay healthy in the season where we are more prone to viruses.
Can you name one situation or an event where you applied pranayama technique to overcome that experience?
Ravi: I went through a time when Pranayama helped me to heal myself. I was in a severe road accident in late 2020, that almost took my life and I spent over a month on a ventilator in intensive care. Pranayama played a big part in my recovery coming back to life and health.
But to be honest, a regular Pranayama practice has impacted my life to the fullest on a daily basis long before that. Since I became aware and Pranayama became part of my daily life, it has helped me to understand who I am, what I am doing, why I am doing it – these all things it made very clear. Clarity is a way to live a comfortable life.
WL: Do you have a favourite technique that is an absolute must in your pranayama practice?
Ravi: Nadi Shodhana Pranayama – alternate nostril breathing.
This is one of the Pranayama that can help to clear many issues, both mental and physical. If you apply this Pranayama correctly in a daily manner, there are so many benefits, too many to list here. It will bring immediate mental clarity, it heals the nervous system, boosts energy and strengthens the immune system. You will feel more light and connected very quickly. Practicing this Pranayama regularly, you don’t even really need to do many other Pranayama.
I personally practice Nadi Shodhana every morning at the start of my day.
Ravi ‘the smiling Yogi’ was born in India into a family of spiritual teachers and from a young age he grew up with a yoga practice as part of his daily life. In his early twenties he lived at the Mahatma Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh where he studied Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga with well-respected Yoga master Yogi Ji. During the last ten years, Ravi has been teaching all across India and the UK to thousands of students from all over the world and recently opened his own Yoga Resort in Goa. In his work as a yoga teacher, Ravi is passionate about making the original principles of traditional Indian Yoga understandable for everyone and combines movement, breath and sacred mantras in an accessible and playful way.