In my teaching of yoga I make a distinction between Breath-Work and PranaYama. I refer to Breath-Work as the foundation practices to PranaYama. Breath-Work practices are excellent for beginners to yoga and breathing techniques. These breath work practices can be undertaken without vigorous preparation of the body and mind for PranaYama practice. These practices can be taught safely by teachers experienced in these basic techniques. After some years of preparation (or simply because the teacher is experienced enough to guide the beginner appropriately) a practitioner can undertake more demanding breath practice, those that I consider Intermediate to Advanced Level practices of PranaYama.
Whether a practice is suitable for beginners or what I consider intermediate or advanced is ALL RELATIVE to one fact - regular practice. It is primarily in the daily/regular or extended practice that we can harm ourselves if we are diving too deep at once. If we are just testing an “advanced technique” occasionally, or just for short spells, most people with general good health will find immediate benefit and not create any lasting damage to their systems and will likely recover from most depths the journey may have plunged them into.
Still, I say this with caution as I have over the years heard unhappy breath stories where people went too far, too long, too soon and found it hard to endure the effects. If we are regularly practicing techniques of breath that are above our level, we can cause imbalances that are not there to begin with, or enhance imbalances that are. Why rush it? The breath is profoundly intimate and I have great respect for breath practices and I advise you to proceed with care and with an experienced teacher if you wish to practice breathing techniques often or a lot.
In the category of Breath-Work I include:
Natural Breathing, Abdominal Breathing, Thoracic and Clavicular Breathing and Full Yogic Breath (FYB) that uses all three of the latter techniques and are the usual/typical “beginners level” Pranayama Practice in Yoga.
Even simpler and where I usually start everyone off is with Belly Breathing. After first exploring Natural Breathing, which in itself is an ever ongoing breath-practice for life, and after checking the clients FYB expression, I suggest the Belly Breathing combined with occasional FYB milestones to see what changes have manifested. My version of Belly Breathing differs to Abdominal Breathing as it does not keep the structure of the Abdominal Breath. It is freer, and allows the practitioner to be a true beginner to breath-work and to start breathing better. It is a relaxing and simple practice and a great place to begin a daily breath-work practice.
All breathing involves the Diaphragm and supporting organs and structures in the body and all movement that makes us relaxed, soft, connected, upright and in good posture (which also involves having good tone and alignment in the body) helps us breathe better. Movement is therefore an essential part of the Breath-Work in the YM Method as in all Hatha Yoga.
For more details on Breath-Work in the YM Method Scroll to YM Breath-Work and Pranayama
Read more on Scrolls: Breath, Prana, and PranaYama for further details.