Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Exploring Pranayama

This is just a post about my own evolving Pranayama practice, for a more detailed treatment try here.

Last time I posted on Pranayama (excellent just worked out how to do the link thing on blogger) it was Viloma Ujaii, the alternating nostril/throat technique and Kapala bhati, the panting fire breath thing.

This time it's Kumbhaka (retention) Pranayama. I think this is my favourite, the alternating nostrils techniques become confusing (although I still do it for five rounds or so), I find it hard to keep the count and for an extended period my arm gets tired (ahh bless). This is a much simpler but arguably more intense version.

You breathe in and retain the breath, you breathe out and hold the exhale then repeat. That's pretty much it.

It becomes interesting when you start slowing the whole thing down, long, slow steady inhaling and exhaling. I started off with a count of 5:5:7:5 inhale,retain,exhale,retain and now it seems to have settled on 10:7:10:10. I can't seem to even up the inhale, after breathing out so slowly and then retaining the breath, the first part of the inhale is a little fast. Supposedly the retention after the exhale should be a little less than after the exhale, tried it and it evened up my inhale. now its 10:10:8:10

It gets very interesting when you bring in the bandhas and this is why it's my favourite. I've been focusing on Intermediate lately and it just doesn't feel as grounded as Primary, less seated poses I suppose, which I find are the most comfortable for engaging the bandhas. It used to bug me but now I know I'll be doing this at the end of the practice, so I'm much happier.

This is how I approach/experience the bandhas. Towards the end of the exhale (2/3) I let myself become aware of the slight lifting sensation of moola bandha I begin to focus on it and intensify it, drawing it up. As it gets as 'raised as it's going to get uddiyana bandha has begun to become slightly activated, my lower abdomen drawing back towards my spine and up.

This next bit is an added extra . At the end of the exhale I draw my abdomen all the way up creating a cave beneath my ribs and then draw in at the sides as if I were about to perform Nauli Kriya (which I do last few breaths on the video). I tend to hold it for a count of five and then slowly relax it in readiness for the inhale.

It's much harder doing the whole nauli thing when your seated, as opposed to standing and bent over with your hands on your knees. After a few breathes it starts to become a little easier though.

At the moment I'm spending about 15 minutes on pranayama, a couple of minutes on kapala bhati, about five rounds of Viloma Ujaii and the rest of the time on this.

Anyway that's how I'm approaching it at the moment, obviously you wouldn't do this after eating or drinking anything.

Why do it? I love the focus and concentration involved in this. You get much more in touch with the whole bandha thing enabling you to employ them more effectively in the asanas, seems to have been a great help for karandavasana and of course the jump back and jump through, Bakasana B is another that comes to mind. I also find it very calming and use it throughout the day, though without the full uddiyana and with a lighter ratio.

When I do it at work I just sit up straighter with my legs wider as if I'm trying to ground my perineum more and then off I go, though with a much quieter Ujaii to avoid attention.

It's still very much work in progress but as I've said before I'd rather drop a couple of asanas from the series if I'm rushed (though not from finishing) than cut back on the Pranayama. Meditation I might cut back to five minutes followed by the Pranayama chant, then do a proper seated meditation and chanting when I get home but I'm finding I want to do more Pranayama rather than less.

Tried to catch the sound of my breathing but mostly caught the sound of the plumbing (no that's not my stomach rumbling ).

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