“… but it was the saxophone soloing that challenged credulity, it’s length and perhaps its unwillingness to tell a traditional story… If there’s one thing the facile critic needs to do his job, it is some verbal personality from the bandstand, some words to transcribe into the review – anything to make a thoroughly musical endeavor more literary or conversational. Coltrane would not provide it.”
Ben Ratliff

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

How to End a Pranayama Practice

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Pranayama can lead to a delicate place, one that is easy to disturb and lose. The inherent structure of a Pranayama practice leads to an ending that may disturb the very delicate quality it created. My practices bring me with two such obstalces: (1) lowering my arm from the nostril control position; (2) stopping the metronome that is ticking in the background.

Continuous Breathing

One way to maintain a smooth transition is to keep breathing. Whatever breathing technique you use in your practice, you can continue with a few basic ujjayi breaths which don’t require nostril control. So as you lower your arm back down you are maintaining a continuous breathing experience – sustaining the qualities of the practice. Similarly you can continue the same ujjayi breathing pattern as you move to stop the metronome and then continue for a few more breaths counting inside without the guidance of the metronome.

I recommend an ujjayi breath that is:

  1. Shorter  – between one half and two thirds of the inhale length of your practice.
  2. Symmetrical – equal inhale and exhale.
  3. No holds – do not pause the breath between inhaling and exhaling, stay with a continuous and fluid movement.

Butoh

In the bigger picture of Yoga – Pranayama is a transition from asana to meditation. When I continue into meditation I use an additional gesture – delicately bringing together each thumb and forefinger until they gently touch. The gesture, as it was taught to me, has a containing and sustaining quality to it. Sometimes I would use the last exhale to slowly bring the fingers together. Recently I’ve made a connection to another practice I once experienced – Butoh.

Butoh is a form of Japanese body/movement theatre. One of the qualities in it is slow and attentive movement. The beginning of this video demonstrates this quality – notice how slowly the lighting comes into the space and for movement to take place (there is much more then to Butoh then slow movement as you can see in the second part of this clip and even more so in the third part).

So I’ve been playing around with an application of this idea from Butoh into the gesture of touching thumb to index finger. The transition is now longer, it continues from a refined breathing into a very refined, barely perceptive movement – that together lead into a special experience of stillness.

You can move the fingers on both hands at the same time or you can do it one hand at a time. You can start by moving slowly and then gradually develop that into slower and slower movement – it cane take 20 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 10 minutes … there is no limit to what you can do with it.

It’s been an amazing support in further refining the transition from Pranayama into meditation.

Play around see what happens and please come back and share your experience 🙂

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