I am putting this page together because it seems more and more that i find teachers of pranayama putting their students in danger. Its not usually a big danger, mostly it just leads to what i call the pranic hangover, however, too many of these hangovers could lead to greater mental and physical issues.
Essentially you should take to heart that if you do not have a regular pranayama practice (at least 20 minutes every 1 to 3 days) then you should avoid the following:
Doing anything with your stomach too empty or full
Doing anything with stomach empty; except for caffeine.
(In other words, dont drink coffee
and skip breakfast before pranayama)
Doing more than 3 rounds or a particular exercise
(2 rounds for Vata Dosha)
Doing more than 20 fast respirations per round
Doing any sort of breath retention practice that
has you holding your breath more than 8 second
intervals over the course of 1 - 3 minutes.
Really, i recommend you do not do any sort of
breath retention exercise at all unless you are in
great shape and/or have a regular pranayama
practice (at least 20 minutes every 1 to 3 days)
Do not skip practice for 4 to 6 days and then do more than a half hour practice; even if you are not doing any breath retention. (This is with the exception of alternate nostril breathing without breath retention. You can carry on with alternate nostril breathing for up to 20 minutes in and of itself)
Do not do everything you know:
Not just students fall into this mistake, but also many teachers of pranayama. Having a huge arsenal of practices doesn't mean you should use it all at once. For example, there are many cooling breaths, but this does not mean you should do any of them. Its good to know a cooling breath (or a heating breath) when you need to cool down (or heat up), but if temperature is not an issue then there is no point in doing even one, much less 3 or 5 or whatever. If you do then you run the risk of taking yourself out of balance (..from no temperature issue into a temperature issue).
The same holds true for cleansing breaths or breaths that remove mucus. If the mucus is gone and you are breathing free and clear then it doesnt matter if you know 13 more cleansing breaths. Clearing the pipes is one thing, but once the junk in the pipes is gone then you are just scrubbing and wearing down the pipes themselves.
Important Note About Neti!
You should not use a neti pot when you are sick! Neti is preventive. Use it while you are well to help keep well. Using it while sick with a cold, for example, often leads to sinus and/or ear canal infection. Also, always add the salt! It makes for a saline solution similar to mucus. Wiithout this you will create an imbalance and your nostrils will either dry out or produce a large amount of mucus in the attempt to restore balance. If you use the salt and still feel dried out then try lubricating your nostrils with Ghee the night before a Neti cleansing.
You want to create a regular pranayama routine that is not so ambitious that you cannot keep a steady routine, nor ambitious for acquiring any mystical powers. Otherwise you are asking for trouble.
Have a simple goal of building up to several rounds of alternate nostril breathing, then several rounds with breath retention, then with bandhas; over the course of about 9 months to a year with steady practice.
It can be good to do other prana accumulating practices leading up to alternate nostril breathing, but, again, dont use your whole arsenal of practices. As the saying goes, "Moderation in all things." Some people add that there should even be "moderation in moderation", but that is definitely not the case with Pranayama.
In summary, never push this practice!!!