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While the yoga market is flooded with videos on asana instruction, there's a real paucity of offerings on Pranayama, which is, after all, the core practice of hatha yoga. That's why it's such good news that John Schumacher, one of the most experienced Iyengar instructors around, has dedicated the third volume of his audio series to pranayama.
The instruction and sequencing here is strictly Iyengar style, which is, by most modern schools' standards, extremely conservative. In fact, though, Schumacher's (and Iyengar's) approach adheres closely to tradition, which cautions that the breath should be "gradually controlled...lest the practitioner be destroyed" (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2.15). Schumacher himself continually reminds us to restrain our breathing practice to reasonable limits, to avoid strain, and to cultivate receptivity.
The CD is divided into 15 tracks. As is characteristic of the Iyengar method, the beginner practices pranayama in a reclining position (never sitting), with the spine propped on a folded blanket so as to open the chest. Formal practice is preceded and concluded by relaxation in Savasana (Corpse Pose); Schumacher sets aside four tracks for Corpse, stressing its central role in the practice of pranayama. And before the breath is altered in any way, the listener investigates everyday breath to "map out" its rhythm and pace, among other qualities.
Schumacher teaches only two basic pranayama practices: Ujjayi Pranayama and Against-the-Grain Breath (a literal translation of Viloma Pranayama). Be aware that the Iyengar school teaches Viloma as an interrupted breathso each inhalation (and later, each exhalation) is made in stages, with short pauses between each stage (and Schumacher offers two different pausing patterns).
This CD constitutes an important addition to the store of recorded yoga instruction. Whether you're a raw beginner or a veteran, and regardless of your preferred school of yoga, the information provided here will serve you well as a foundation for your pranayama practice.
Contributing Editor Richard Rosen teaches public classes in Northern California. He is also the author of The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama.