“Fright never injures anyone. What injures the spirit is having someone always on your back, beating you, telling you what to do and what not to do.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Observing Pranayama: August 2010


Following is a 10 day journal of observations in and around my Pranayama practice.

My current morning Pranayama practice is:

10 –  0  – 15 – 0 Gradually build up Ujjayi breath
10 –  0  – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 –  5  – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 –  5  – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 10 – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 0   – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
6 –   0 –   6 –   0 x6 Ujjayi

My current evening practice:

6 – 0 – 12 – 0 x40 Anuloma Ujjayi
6 – 0 – 6 – 0 x4 Ujjayi

Recurring ideas/terms in observation:

  • Late/Early Morning: early morning practice begins before 07:00am, late morning usually around 08:30. Body is very different in the late morning – warmer, more dynamic, lends itself to movement – but there are more disturbances in outside world.
  • Panick Exhale: a combination of mind and body experience when extending overall breath length – manifests in exhale. Mind expresses a sense of urgency early in the exhale – as if it isn’t expecting to hold out. Breath demands refined attention – usually ends up with a push and struggle in the end (manifesting as overly-tight abdominal control).
  • This period of observation is fairly aligned with the phase of Andreea’s cycle in which ovulation takes place. We are open to pregnancy – which makes this a more physically taxing period of the month for me. Pregnancy has brought with it much tapas – and this is an emotional period for Andreea and therefor also emotionally taxing on me. I need to remember that this is a period of sustaining.
  • The eletric metronome I am using has a flashing light in addition to the sounds. After practicing numerous times in relative darkenss and noticing the light more often then I care to admit – I realized that my eyes are having difficulty staying closed peacefully.
  • I have known a more subtle experience of Pranayama – I feel that life frictions are effecting the quality of my breath. Dealing with frictions in Pranayama does seem to offer support in life – is it possible to take it further?


Date Time Observations
Aug 21 Morning
  • Off-the-mat: weird/confusing day yesterday – decided not to practice.
  • Physicality: Late morning practice, left shoulder feels inflamed – agitated by inhale movement. Body seems to be pulling to the left.
  • Flow: Both nostrils slightly congested – overall flow OK
  • Left-Right: Left side panick on exhale from the point at which holds are added. Overall better on right side – smooth consistent exhale.
  • Presence: Good -steady counting with only a few mental distractions
  • Repetition was experienced as boring.
  • Though a relatively short breath ratio demanded more subtle control in nostrils.
  • Flow OK – there is definitely space for refinment.
Aug 22 Morning
  • Off-the-mat: hot practice last night followed by spontaneous late-night wealth-celebration dinner – including french fries.
  • Physicality: Got up (a little later then usual) feeling heavy – did late-morning 20 minute practice standing & seated forward bends. Sitting was fine after practice
  • Flow: Both nostrils slightly congested – overall flow OK. Grew tired towards end of practice – less endurance.
  • Left-Right: Left side much more blocked then right side. Right side fairly smooth flow
  • Presence: So so – background drilling and construction noises didn’t help.
  • Better adjusted but still adjusting to the 1-2 ratio which I haven’t been experiencing as frequently as this practice demands.
  • Left side requires no physical nostril contol, right side requires nostril control to peacefully maintain the ration
  • Left side is more congested then the right side.
  • After practice left side felt heavier and tighter – right side felt more open and spacious
  • Better overall presence then yesterday
Aug 23 Morning
  • Slightly compromised food day yesterday – getting over and through the unusual dinner from the previous day.
  • Physicality: later then usual late morning practice – heaviness in body, short standing forward bend practice then Pranayama.
  • Flow: echoes from last night neutral (40 breath) practice carrying over into quality of exhale, more attention to using finger for nostril control – led to a slightly refined exhale experience – softer & smoother.
  • Left-Right: the same
  • Presence – surprisingly OK – was expecting easy diversion – maybe heaviness had stabilizing effect?
  • Crappy energy day – a head-ache-like presence, still managed to be productive, just didn’t particulary enjoy it.
  • No asana practice – just Pranayama
  • Surprising quality of presence.
  • Adjusting to 1×2 ratio – barely needed physical pressure on either nostril to sustain it.
  • Left still more congested then right
  • Thankful for practice.
Aug 24 Morning
  • Resumed complete morning practice
  • Left-Right: same deal, left inhibited, better flow on right
  • Presence – OK
  • Added a bit of chanting at the end
  • Full practice – including mahamudra.
  • Used a short mantra chant today (haven’t done that in a while) – both after morning and evening pranayama practices.
  • nothing to add on breathing practice – same as before
Aug 25 Morning
  • Heaviness in practice – though it didn’t inhibit me from completing the entire practice sequence
  • Left still less flowing then right.
  • Surprisingly – it was difficult to sustain the crown of the practice on the left side – usually it’s easier because the blocked nostril acts as a natural valve – though today something wasn’t in place. Inhales in the crown practice (and partly in tht stage before it) were a bit forced. There was objection in my mind to doing the crown formulat – but I did manage it and though it began with friction – it ended on a softer note.
  • Long and mindful day – much mathematics and programming – left me with a mind in overdrive.
  • No Asana practice – just Pranayama
  • Poor presence
  • Sides have been reversed – left side was more open and better flowing then the right side which was slightly more congested
Aug 26 Morning
  • Nice, full practice.
  • Usual pranayama – nothing to note
  • Day included two demanding conversations – drained my energy. Second conversation stretched longer then planned – consciously overriding my practice.
  • Objection to practice in mind and body
  • No practice.
  • No pranamaya
Aug 27 Morning
  • Had a very difficult time falling asleep – much disturbance in the body, itches that can’t be itched all over my body. Took time and patience to find sleep.
  • No motivation/will to practice. Not forcing it.
  • By not forcing it, appeared a space for Pranayama.
  • Began with chanting which opened the door softly into practice.
  • Surprising quality of presence.
  • Surprising quality oe balance between the two sides (though both still a bit blocked)
  • Another day of math and code – softer, better pace and more rewarding then previous day.
  • No asana practice today. We went for a short walk.
  • Pranayama practice – ok presence.
  • Again left side has better flow then right side.
Aug 28 Morning
  • Heaviness in body, late practice – standing sequence only + chanting
  • Pranayama practice – with OK presence.
  • Overal balance between the two sides.
  • On inhales – physical pressure pain around left shoulder – reaching shoulderblade on back side and heart space in front.
  • Money is on my mind
  • Short standing sequence, savasana + reiki + Pranayama practice
  • Flow blocked more then usual – very prominent on left side.
  • Basic presence
Aug 29 Morning
  • Woke up and practiced later then usual
  • Nice practice – appreciation
  • Pranayama was a bit difficult – especially sustaining the crown formula – especially on the left side
  • The two sides were different – but not in a consistent/describable way.
  • Money fears and now the presence of death near by
  • Good practice
  • Good pranayama – refined experience of exhale control
  • Fairly similar experience between two sides.
Aug 30 Morning
  • Again woke up late
  • Shakuhachi + very short standing sequence + chanting + Pranayama
  • Though nostrils felt blocked more then usual in regular breathing, Pranayama was surprisingly OK
  • Funny – I can’t seem to recall anything about left-right experience
  • Nice practice + pranayama + short meditation
  • Both nostrils slightly blocked – but with less noticeable difference between the two sides
  • Nice presence
  • First time in a while that I’ve felt pranayama usher me into a meditative space
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