I have seen many teachers instructing pranayama practices before an asana class. I am not sure of the logic behind that. This is a common question we face in our teacher training courses as many of our students have had this experience of doing pranayama before asanas.
The following are the some of the reasons I don’t teach pranayama before asanas:
- Pranayama is a subtle practice compared to asanas. We always do the gross practice before subtle practice.
- Pranayama naturally leads to a state of pratyahara (sense withdrawal). You don’t need to withdraw your senses when you are practicing asanas which is part of bahiranga yoga.
- Asanas increases the circulation and clear the blockages in energy pathways (nadis). It is logical to do pranayama after asanas as our energy pathways need to be clear for better pranic circulation.
- Asanas helps to dilate the smooth muscles to have a better air flow into the lungs. It is comfortable to do pranayama after asanas.
- According to Swatmarama Hatha Yoga Pradeepika Athaasane dridhe yogee vashee hitamkitaashanaha
Guroopadishtamaargena praanaayaamaansamabhyset. Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:1). Thus being established in asana and having control (of the body), by taking a balanced diet; pranayamas should be practiced according to the instruction of the guru.
- And the last and the foremost, asana comes before pranayama in Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali.
It’s not a crime to do Bhastrika or Kapalbhati (Shatkarma) before an asana class, if the reason behind is to heat up the body. But not Bhastrika for the purpose of pranayama. I never understood the concept of teaching Bhramari and Nadi Shodhan before an asana class. For the intelligent use of time and energy, pranayama should always come after asanas. If you are just practicing pranayama, if your body is qualified to do that, it is perfectly fine to do that. The only requirement is, you body should be able to hold the prana you are generating.