Fascinating Differences Between Yoga & Pranayama
This is a nice question and you came to the right place if you are looking for an accurate answer. Most of the answers that I saw on the internet are either partially correct or completely inaccurate.
I will answer this one in detail…
But before that let me give you the difference in brief…
So, what is the difference between Yoga and Pranayama?
Pranayama is part of Yoga, whereas Yoga is a combination of multiple disciplines. Yoga includes 8 steps and they are Yama (Self-control), Niyama (Important rules for a disciplined life), Asana (The yogic postures or exercise), Pranayama (Breath-control), Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal), Dharana (Focus), Dhyana (Intense level of focus), and Samadhi (Liberation, Moksha).
As you can see, the answer to your question is very simple, Pranayama is just one part of Yoga but one of the most important ones.
That’s the answer in short,
But If you are interested to know the concept of Pranayama and Yoga in more detail, then please read on…
To start with you need to understand what Yoga is first…
Many people see Yoga as just as an exercise, the moment you hear someone say, “I am going to Yoga class”, you immediately start picturing all the body twisting exercises, isn’t it?
But you know what?
That’s not what Yoga is…
Yoga is much more than that…
Yoga is big, it’s a large concept, developed over many years…
Many people came and went, they spent their life and contributed their ideas…
The idea of Yoga came through questioning life, people always wondered from ancient time, about what this life is?
Why are we even born? What could be the purpose then? Lots of mysterious questions.
And that’s how seeking starts…
What was important to realize and even important now, is that all the wisdom is hidden within us.
We have all the knowledge of the universe imprinted in us, only when you look inside, take on the inner voyage, you realize how true it is.
You don’t need to dissect any object or put them under the microscope to know this world…
You got the most fascinating tool ever with you, and that is your own self, which is aware of everything…
But, how to start that inner journey?
That is when Yoga comes into the picture. Yoga is the answer for you. There are 8 important steps you perform, it starts from creating self-restraint and then keep going to a higher-level one by one…
Once you have achieved control over yourself, on your emotions, you practice Asanas & pranayama to prepare your body and mind, then go into meditation, then deeper level of meditation…
All these you do to achieve the final state, which is the ultimate goal of life, merging with divine or moksha, nirvana or samadhi, there are many names…
That’s the state of unbelievable joy…
That’s a state,
where you are beyond sorrow,
beyond the conditioned mind,
beyond the idea of race or religion,
that’s an ecstatic state, ultimate euphoria, bliss, joy…
it’s just impossible to explain…
That’s the purpose of Yoga
And each level of the 8 steps Yoga plays an important role to prepare you, including an extremely important step which is Pranayama.
Let’s touch upon the 8 steps of Yoga in short to get more clarity…
The 8 steps Yoga:
8 limbs Yoga is known as “Ashtanga Yoga” in Sanskrit, Ashta means eight and Anga means Limb. Each of the 8 steps is a step by step process to reach the final goal which is to become a Yogi or attain Samadhi.
These 8 steps are below…
Let us understand them in brief…
Yama means self-restraint.
There are usually 5 different ways you can achieve self-restraint, and they would be non-violence (Ahimsa),
Sexual restraint (Brahmacharya)
and non-greediness (Aparigraha)
Niyamas are rules that you follow to create a daily discipline to perform important tasks.
Again, there are 5 ways…
Cleanliness of mind, body & thoughts (Saucha)
Surrender to supreme or divine, or the personal god (Ishvarapranidhana)
Asana is the exercise part of the Yoga. And that is what people constantly refer to as Yoga. There are 100s of different exercises for various purposes. This itself is a huge concept and needs years of dedication if you want to explore it completely.
This is an extremely important step because this is when you start training your body and mind.
Pranayamas are a series of breathing techniques or breath control.
Prana means life energy or the cosmic force, Yama means to control, together it means the method to control or channelize the cosmic energy or the Chi (In Chinese).
This is an incredibly important step, it powers your body and mind, invigorates you with unlimited energy. This is the beginning of meditation, this is the first step towards intense meditativeness.
Pranayama also is a large subject and it needs proper guidance while you learn. In this process, you keep your focus on your breath and fills yourself with Prana (Prana is just not oxygen) through the air that you breathe in.
Due to the focus on the breath, it makes you meditative and secondly, it has a long list of benefits apart from being energetic and all these are important for a higher level of meditation.
Pratyahara is a sense withdrawal process. There are methods by which you learn to withdraw your senses from the outer world. It’s an extremely important step.
There are 5 senses we humans possess…
These 5 senses are responsible for gathering information from the surroundings and create our perspective of reality. And the most important point to notice here is that it happens unconsciously all the time.
The information gathering is spontaneous and keeps happening all the time, till we sleep. The amount of data is huge and most of it is negative, which distracts our mind and keeps us worried and anxious.
In this method, you learn how to control your senses, and how much to allow and disallow.
You can never become meditative if you are constantly bothered by your thought, and the thoughts exist due to the information gathered by all your senses.
This step is extremely crucial for you to become meditative.
Dharana in simple terms means focus. It is the one-pointed concentration, fixing your attention at one thought or one object or one activity…
There are different ways you can achieve this, different types of mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, etc., can be classified as Dharana.
In this, you sharpen your focus…
Dhyana is the next step of Dharana, Dhyana takes the practice of Dharana to the next level…
It is a state where you are not really concentrating on anything specific, you are just in a state of oneness with your own self and things around you…
In Dharana, you keep your focus on the object, but in Dhyana, you become one with the object. In Dharana, you focus on the light, but in Dhyana, you become the light.
This is a deep level of absorption, closer to the union. A stage where the superhuman qualities of human beings start to unleash.
Samadhi is the final state when the absorption is complete.
Now you are merged with the divine, the source of creation, and when human consciousness becomes one with the cosmic consciousness.
This is the state of euphoria, endless bliss, and unbelievable joy.
It’s a state where you have gone beyond your 5 senses, beyond all identities & boundaries of human limitation, and false perceptions.
It’s the state where you have access to the endless intelligence of the divine.
Now that I have told you about each step, in detail, you hopefully understood the importance of all of them and, also most importantly the difference between Pranayama and Yoga.
Comment below and let me know.