Literally translated, the expression pranayama means "expansion of the breath“ (from prana - "the life force“ - and ayama - "expansion").
Pranayama consists of astonishingly simple breathing exercises, which, with regular practice, develop a deep physical, energetic and emotional effect.
Usually, breathing is a subconscious activity. As a first step in pranayama, one develops awareness for one’s breathing, breathing patterns and breathing-related muscles. After an appropriate preparatory period, the exercises are intensified to include periods of holding the breath (kumbhaka).
On a purely physical level, regular pranayama improves breathing volume as well as saturation of different tissues with oxygen. Important muscle groups, for instance the muscles of the pelvic floor and the deep abdominal muscles, are strengthened.
On the energetic level, pranayama increases one’s life force and brings about an energetic balance between areas with too much and areas with too little supply of energy.
By establishing new breathing patterns, certain emotional states, such as anxiety or anger that are directly linked to certain harmful breathing patterns, can be avoided or overcome.
In this sense, pranayama, as it has been practiced in India for millennia, is probably the oldest form of breathing therapy.
Certain pranayama techniques have concrete therapeutic applications, others have a balancing and calming effect, while some specifically increase vitality.
I teach pranayama in the tradition of Swami Kuvalayananda (1883 - 1966). I regularly study with Paul Dallaghan and his teacher Sri O. P. Tiwari.
This tradition of pranayama has the advantage that it can be taught to beginners of yoga and can be individualized. In the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system, students have to have mastered advanced postures (3rd series) before being taught pranayama.
I teach pranayama either in individual sessions or in introductory workshops that currently take place once per year.
For practitioners who already have experience with this style of pranayama, I regularly offer a class on Tuesday afternoon, from 5.30 to 6 p.m. (included in the monthly fee, otherwise 7,50 € per class, two pranayama classes correspond to one Mysore class on the 10 pass).
Every few months, I also offer on Sundays from 10 to 11.30 a.m. a pranayama class for deepening and refreshing the practice ("pranayama refresher"). This class is also included in the monthly fee - for all others, participation is 15 € (corrresponding to one Mysore class on the 10 card). The dates of the next pranayama refresher can be found here.
For further reading, I can recommend the following general literature on pranayama:
Gregor Maehle: The Breath of Yoga
Swami Kuvalayananda: Pranayama
Swami Rama et al.: Science of Breath - A Practical Guide