So what’s pranayama?.

cobra pose-Bhujangasana - Ricardo das NevesIt’s the science of breathing.

Dude, no offense, but it doesn’t take a genius to breathe. Why do you need a “science”?

Because most of the time you’re breathing shallow and inefficiently. And, there are two kinds of functions in the body: voluntary (such as lifting an arm) and involuntary (such as digestion). Breathing falls under both categories: it’s both voluntary (you can speed it up, hold it, or slow it down at will) and involuntary (you breathe even while asleep).

Yeah, I already knew that.

Well, the breath is the gateway between the voluntary and the involuntary functions. Properly used, the breath can release unconscious, chronic tension from both voluntary and involuntary muscles. It can also keep the mind centered and the body flooded with energy.

Dude, breathe in, breathe out. How much complicated can it get?

Lotus pose-Padmasana - Ricardo das NevesWell, pranayama is using long breaths in and long breaths out, roughly the same length, during yoga poses and during everyday living. Breathing this way promotes emotional and mental levelness and implies that we’re living our lives consciously -- as opposed to the shallow breaths we tend to take when we’re ruffled by our own emotions or functioning at half-mast, on “auto-pilot.”

Oh…. I’m catching your drift now. But still, why is it a “science”?

Because at more advanced level, pranayama entails specific practices of controlling the breath through different practices and breathing ratios. For instance, you might draw the breath in to a count of four, hold it in to another count of four, breathe out for four count, and hold the breath out for another four count. By changing the ratio, the duration, and alternating the nostrils, one can use many combinations with specific results.

Mountain pose-Tadasana - Ricardo das NevesLike what? Gimme a “for instance.”

Well, it’s possible to go from being totally physically drained, emotionally depressed, mentally foggy --

Oh, yeah, I remember the day after my college parties--

-- to completely energized, up, and alert, just in 15 to 20 minutes.

15 to 20 minutes! Get outta here! How do you do it?

Well, you don’t want to learn that separate from the yamas.