In the practice of yoga breathing (technically called pranayama) we find both times of elation and times when we become fearful or depressed. This occurs because within our breathing patterns lie our habits and conditioning for being in the world. Pranayama—often mistaken as the practice of controlling the breath—is actually about giving freedom to the breath, and creating a place to simply observe these natural cycles of the mind.
The traditional image used to describe the art of pranayama is that of taming a tiger. If you try too quickly to tame a tiger, the tiger will kill you. Similarly, if you try to forcibly control the breath, the powerful energies you release can destroy your practice. Pranayama requires infinite patience, a sense of humor, and a little bit of kindness. In this way the tiger of the prana gradually becomes your friend, and the beneficial qualities of pranayama manifest easily: a tremendous sense of space, great liberation of feeling, and the sense that the body is very light and naturally radiant.