Numerous circumstances have lowered the amount of writing I do here, specifically about Yoga. A lot of my Yoga energy is being diverted to other Yoga activities: I’ve been making an effort to regulate my practices, I’ve been working on an asana illustration and sequence building project and I’ve been supporting my teacher in creating and refining his website.
A new Yoga thread has now graced my life. I am beginning a process, guided by my teachers, of exploration and refinement of Pranayama. It is intended both to address my current being and to be a systemic process of inquiry into potential qualities of Pranayama practices.
I subscribe to my teacher’s view that of all the tools of Yoga, Pranayama is one of the most effective and useful tools for practitioners of this day and age. Yet is it one of the least known and most neglected teachings of Yoga. Pranayama is a subtle and refined practice, it takes consistent long term effort to experience and appreciate – one can almost see it as a teaching of subtlty. Practicing Yoga asana without a consequent Pranayama practice is like cooking a great meal and then not eating it.
Though I have written about the basics of breathing and Pranayama practices I have not yet gotten around to writing about the process of developing a Pranayama practice. Not for lack of wanting, but rather because I couldn’t find a point of origin nor envision a good path that I felt would be useful in this technological medium. I am therefor happy to share and document my personal experiences as this new personal journey of exploration presents new momentum. The Journal can be accessed using the new “Pranayama Journal” content category.
Point of Origin
Over recent months I have managed to create a fairly regular day-to-day existence. On top of it I have managed to stabilize a highly regular morning practice which includes 40-60 minutes of asana practice followed by a Pranayama practice and a short meditation. I am also looking to create a window for a regular evening practice of similar length (though different qualities) followed by an additional variant of Pranayama.
During my first years of quality practice I had easy access to Nadi Sodhana. Yet after a few years my nostrils developed a regular kind of congestion which prevented me from experiencing a quality NS practice. For many years this led to frustration (on numerous levels) – until at some point I came to peace with it. Some years ago I consulted with a medical specialist who said that my nasal tissues (which act as a natural air filter) are slightly inflamed. Her suggestion was an invasive procedure in which these tissues would be trimmed to re-enable a regular flow of air. She could not offer any insight as to what may have cause this. I didn’t go through with the procedure.
The primary Pranayama technique I currently use is therefor Anuloma Ujjayi. I practice with a 10 second inhale with a crown practice formula of [ 220.127.116.11 ] – which translates into [ 10.10.20.0 ]. Generally my practice is 30 breaths long – 5 sequences of 6 breaths each. My observation has been that when qualities of focus, quiet and physical vitality are present – I can comfortably contain this practice, otherwise it may lead to exertion and tension. I usually don’t approach this formula in my morning Pranayama – I do so in the evenings if I feel that I have successfully created the conditions for it.
My overall objective in practice is to maintain a soft, open and faith-filled heart, sustain a sense of health and vitality in the body and a quiet and fear-free mind.
The first steps are about observation:
- Create a month long journal of observation of my Pranayama practices and their relationship to other movements in my life.
- Replace my evening Pranayama practice for 10 days with a simple, continuous, steady and accessible practice of 18.104.22.168 for 40 breaths and to observe the qualities of breath in this setting.
- Start oiling my nostrils with almond oil in the mornings.