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on March 24, 2016
This is an oldie, but a goody. The first edition came out in 1979, but as its intent is to provide an overview of the anatomy and physiology of breath for yoga practitioners, the fact that it doesn’t access the bleeding edge of respiratory science isn’t all that detrimental.

This short book consists of four chapters. Two chapters are by the famous yogi Swami Rama, and the other two are written by medical doctors. The first chapter is an introduction to breath from the yogic perspective. It both explains why it’s so important to understand and work with breath and introduces the mythic physiology (prana, nadi, etc.) that has historically been used to explain pranayama (breath exercises.)

The second chapter is written by Dr. Alan Hymes and it explains the mechanics of respiration. While Chapter 2 focuses on the anatomy of breathing, it begins with an explanation of cellular respiration to introduce the role of breath in powering muscles. There is a fine explanation of the operation of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles in breathing.

Chapter 3 is written by Dr. Rudolph Ballentine, and it delves into the role of the nose and nasal cavities in respiration. Breathing through the nose is emphasized in both yoga and many other systems of breath training (e.g. the Buteyko and Wim Hof methods.) This is because the nasal cavities perform many useful functions such as moisturizing and warming air, capturing pollutants, and extract heating and moisture from exhaled breath. Besides exploring nasal anatomy and physiology, Dr. Ballentine describes jala neti shatkarma (nasal cleansing with salt water) and nadi shoudhana (alternate nostril breathing.)

The final chapter, written by Swami Rama, mostly describes various techniques of pranayama (breathing exercises) and related practices bandhas and mudras (locks and seals in which bodily parts are contracted or constricted.) However, the chapter begins with a mix of physiology and mythic physiology. That is, it explains some topics not addressed earlier--such as the interaction between the nervous and the cardiovascular systems as well as chakra.

My standing complaint about books that weave together science and pseudo-science is mitigated a bit herein. My problem with putting these ideas together is that it can be difficult for the reader to determine what concepts reflect reality and which offer models to help one visualize energy. However, except for the last chapter, this book does a good job of keeping these ideas separate. The chapters by the medical doctors present the science with minimal intrusion of unscientific concepts. Swami Rama does present science and mythology together, but not so much scrambled together in a confusing mish-mash.

Chapters 2 through 4 use a number of graphics to help present the material. In the middle chapters these largely consist of line drawings to convey the relevant anatomical features or physical actions. The last chapter adds photographs to demonstrate relevant postures. There is a page of recommended readings, but it’s more of an advertisement for other books put out by the Himalayan Institute than the recommendation of books on the science of breath.

I found this book to be educational. It packs a lot of useful information into a concise package and is readable to a layman. I’d recommend it for yoga practitioners and others who are engaged in breath work.
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on January 3, 2014
Many people pay a lot of attention on what to eat. Very few people pay attention to on how they breath. Proper breathing is highly correlated to our health. Without food, one can live for one month or more (by drinking water only). Without breathing, one cannot stand for long.

This book covers the theory and provides practices that can be rather easily followed. It starts with simple, physical practices and leads you to the more advanced practices, which may be used for healing or expanding one's awareness.

I have been practicing meditation and kung-fu. I have also studied spirituality for many years. This book helps me to see more clearly the role and importance of breathing in many of these practices. I have started to incorporate the techniques taught in the book into my daily practice. I feel that I have benefited a lot from this book. Some other books by this author (William Atkinson/Yogi Ramacharaka) also seem to be quite interesting.

About the Author(s):
The tone and the contents of this book indicate that it is written by knowledgeable and experienced Yogis. The author was originally listed as Yogi Ramacharaka. Some people thought that it was a pseudonym used by William Atkinson. It seems to me that either Atkinson studied with some very good Yogis, or he was collaborating with some --- physically or through channeling (like how Jane Robert channeled Seth).
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on February 12, 2014
Breathing is usually an unconscious function of our bodys beautiful.....and this is a good thing....but knowing more about
proper breathing, and the many health benefits will definately increase your overall health in body, mind and spirit....then.
you will be able to knowledge with your children and they are so eager to learn about their bodies and
how interesting and magically it adults its important that we educate ourselves, as we have most likely not been
formally taught ourselves, then our responsibility is to lovingly inform those we love.....Sally
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on May 31, 2016
A lot of great knowledge in this book, I highly recommend it. I will be doing the exercises in this book, already started actually, and I honestly never thought that breathing in the ways this book suggests could make me feel so incredible in a short time. The breathing exercises are already helping me a great deal with some mental health conditions; depression, OCD, PTSD...I have finally found a great way for me to quiet my mind.
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on January 29, 2017
This is a concise yet wonderful book on the subject. Here are some salient features:
1) The first few chapters describe the basic concepts like Prana, the process of breathing from a purely material point of view, the different types of breathing etc. This is done very precisely, without making it boring at all.
2) Many of the exercises seem rather simple, and yet they are potent. I'm just trying to master the complete Yogi breath and I've found that whenever I take a couple of these breaths, I become a calmer and happier person.
3) The later chapters go into more esoteric subjects like Pranic healing etc.
4) This book is pretty old which is apparent from the kind of English used which I personally enjoy a lot. The usage of words is sometimes funny, like he calls the habit of mouth-breathing as "disgusting", which some people apparently took offense too, but I find it used on a humorous note and to discourage people from the said habit.
So overall, a nice, concise book for someone who wants to take up this science of breathing seriously - I found it especially neat when there're so many complicated books and resources around on this subject these days.
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on June 24, 2016
This is just a horribly formatted cheap publication made to turn over and sell to the public.
I ended up printing the entire book (This Book can be found as a free pdf online) and making my own book with a hole puncher and a little binder. Much easier and more enjoyable to read than the version I purchased.
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on May 26, 2011
This little book, written more than 100 years ago, has become an anchor in my spiritual library. It's wisdom is ageless and ir's practices have enriched my life. I read it initially as I began work toward healing after decades of chronic debilitating pain and was surprised to find how it spiritually empowering as it charted a path toward health and healing.
A must read for healers and those seeking healing power within themselves!
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on September 7, 2015
This is a well written introduction to yogic pranayama with lots of info describing the physiological aspects of proper breathing, as well as the esoteric yoga teachings. Highly recommended.
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on April 29, 2013
My wife and I got interested in Swami Rama's book after reading the paperback edition of "Living with the Himalayan Masters". After that we decided to read all his books.

My wife has learnt yoga and also done a certificate course from a reputed Yoga Institute near our home. As per her, the book is very good for laymen like me.

I am a hardcore maintenance engineer and usually believe in tangible things and yet this book has got me thinking about the 'other' way of looking at life.

The book by itself is very clear in its writing and has got me interested in knowing more and practicing yoga and 'prana' .

A must for anyone is today's stressed out world. More than social networking where more than 97% of the people you are interacting with are the ones you really did not want to be in touch with, what one needs is to 'network' with one's own self and find peace and tranquility.

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on December 14, 2016
"Breath is life..." and has an esoteric meaning (Air) as well as an esoteric meaning (prana). Control of the breath leads to control of body and mind with Prana. Rhythmic Breath plus Will can lead to the healing of the whole body or part thereof; and to healing others. The author promises 'concise" instructions and exercises towards breathing correctly. He succeeds in doing so and provides several exercises for cultivating breath as pertains to physical, mental and spiritual development. Behind it all are principles of correct breathing; everything vibrates; and you can heal yourself and others with correct breathing.
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