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The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama Paperback – August 13, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Rosen, a nationally known yoga teacher and contributing editor to Yoga Journal, has written an excellent guide to the yogic art of pranayama, which translates from Sanskrit as the lengthening of the breath or control of the life force. Due to its powerful effects, pranayama is traditionally learned under the guidance of a teacher. This book provides a safe introduction to pranayama for modern yoga students. Drawing on classic Indian texts, Rosen clearly explains the complex philosophy underlying pranayama. He leads the reader on a journey of self-discovery by providing several interesting exercises to develop body and breath awareness. Strongly influenced by modern yoga master BKS Iyengar's Light on Pranayama (1981), Rosen incorporates many of Iyengar's innovations, such as the use of yoga props and reclined positions in his treatise. Full of practical advice, this is an expert and accessible introduction to the mystic art of controlled respiration. Jane Tuma
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"Richard Rosen's new book The Yoga of Breath is a welcome addition to the few pranayama literature issued in the past decade or so; it will help dedicated yogis keep their spiritual instruments properly strung and finely tuned."—Yoga Journal

"Richard Rosen has written a beautiful and substantial work on pranayama. It is at once modern and classical. Brilliantly engaging and accessible, it is a guide to practice that can become a companion for life. I recommend it unequivocally to students and teachers alike."—Patricia Walden, cofounder of the B. K. S. Iyengar Yoga Studio

"Pranayama is a vitally important part of traditional Hatha-Yoga. Richard Rosen has rendered a most valuable yeoman service by making this widely neglected practice accessible to Western practitioners. I highly recommend this work."—George Feuerstein, Ph.D., author of The Shambhala Guide to Yoga

"Richard Rosen acts as our pranayama tour guide by honestly sharing his own travels, both inward and outward. And he has done it the way all great teachers do: He points to the map and then makes sure we go on our own journey and don't just keep looking at his finger. The Yoga of Breath shows us how to find time, how to work with our mind, cultivate patience, experience more spaciousness, and be playful—all that by breathing in and breathing out. I'm inspired!"—Cyndi Lee, director of the Om Yoga Center
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (August 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570628890
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570628894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a good book that takes a slow approach to learning pranayama and integrating it with an asana practice. While I think there are better books out there such as Iyengar's "Light on Pranayama," many beginners may find this level of detail intimidating. However, this book takes things slow and that is a good thing for people experimenting on their own which is probably not the best way to learn pranayama.

I am a former Teaching Fellow in physiology and an ex-scientist. Currently, I work in psychology and part of my business involves the use of biofeedback. With that said, I want to point out that practicing breathing techniques without appropriate instruction can be dangerous at worst and could cause a variety of physical symptoms such as anxiety and panic. It wise to take things slowly and this book is written by someone who is responsible and has taught this material in a variety of settings over many years.

In general, I am an advocate of a slow and gentle approach to any type of yoga practice, but particularly breathing techniques. I also think that if you get this book, you should also consider "The Science of Breath" which provides a scientific framework for the ideas presented here and a more broad treatment by advanced practioners with psychological and more scientific backgrounds. I'm not saying this book doesn't have a lot of value, but I agree with the other reviewers that it's not a standalone text.

If you are only going to buy one book on pranayama, I would say that Iyengar's "Light on Pranayama" is the best. However, it is an area that is best studied from a variety of points of view and certainly Mr. Rosen has made an important contribution to the literature on this topic for Western audiences.
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Format: Paperback
For me this book was the link between Yoga Asana and Pranayama techniques. Useful? Yes, absolutely! If like me you are looking to begin the process of learning Pranayama from a background of attending yoga classes and practising at home. This book helps you build upon the familiar yoga postures allowing you to be confident as you start explore the breath. Pranayama is the foundation of a balanced Yoga practice, this book is an easy to understand introduction to the basics of the practice. For people looking for advanced practices there are plenty of esoteric hard to read, hard to understand books available. For the rest of us this book will more than adequate for many years.
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Format: Paperback
Just as Light on Yoga can be a bit daunting to the beginning yoga student, so Light on Pranayama can feel overwhelming to those trying to incorporate a home practice of pranayama. Having practiced Iyengar yoga for seven years but still finding it challenging to incorporate a regular home pranayama practice, I found Richard's book was exactly the roadmap I was looking for. If some find the introductory chapters unecessary, it is easy to skip them. I like having them there so that the book is accesible to as many students as possible - plus it is always interesting to see how each new teacher approaches the poses. And of course context is always helpful. However, the book is worth the price for the pranayama sections alone. Deliberate and thoughful instructions make it easy to follow. Also worth mentioning is that this book has recieved excellent reviews in every yoga publication on the newsstand - Yoga Journal, Yoga Internationa, Ascent, and numerous online publications. This book is a must for anyone interested in pranayama practice.
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Format: Paperback
I have been a home practitioner of yoga for some time now, but I struggle with the breathing, or pranayama, necessary to go deeper into the asanas (postures), and so I was hoping that ths book would provide detailed breathing instruction. Although the author definitely does include step-by-step instruction for how to perform some of the most common types of yogic breath, this information does not come until the end of the book. Instead, the first part of the book focuses on growing accustomed to breathing normally while performing a series of basic yoga poses modified with props (as per the Iyengar tradition). The author offers a planned study guide which first incorporates the basic poses and then eventually works up to the breathing exercises.
This book doesn't really work for people like myself who originally came to yoga via asana practice alone but then eventually desired to incorporate pranayama into their practice. However, for the beginning yoga practitioner looking simultaneously develop an asana and pranayama practice, this might be a useful reference manual.
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By Oslo on September 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
A wealth of information, but not geared toward beginners. I'll keep this book to refer to it later on, but I need something more user friendly to start. Building awareness of internal organs while breathing is covered extensively in this book. I'd like to have begun with general breathing and body scans before getting too focused and specific. As someone else commented; the book is organized somewhat backwards.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My own yoga teacher suggested this book when I began teaching meditation and yogic breathing techniques tools for as pain relief and stress management for people with advanced chronic medical conditions.

I cannot speak highly enough of Richard Rosen's lucid introduction to the profound effects of intentionally bringing one's full intention to the breath. Most helpfully, he is superb at identifying and describing the subtle (as well as sometimes dramatic) shifts in our conscious awareness when we mindfully begin to explore the vast potential of Pranayama (more or less literally "breath control" from the Sanskrit) to transform consciousness.

Richard Rosen has drawn not only from the voluminous Vedic texts of a wisdom tradition thousands of years old, but at least as usefully for contemporary students of yoga and mediation, he also excels in finding simple language to communicate his own experiences under the guidance of his teachers.

This is rich stuff, and while I understand Mr. Rosen has also written even more advanced books on the fascinating topic of yogic breathing, myself, I have been returning to The Yoga of Breath for over a year now and still feel there is more here for me to glean from this extraordinary volume.

My only caution might be that this book is not so appropriate for new students of yoga and/or mediation. It takes a couple of years' regular practice to develop the proprioceptive awareness of the intersection of breath and energy within the human body. For beginners, I'd strongly encourage you to first find a yoga or a mediation teacher with whom you sense a comfortable rapport and gain some experience of the possibilities yourself before you begin to try and make some sense of these phenomena with the help of Mr.
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