Pranayama : The Life force

The word Prana literally means ‘Life Force’ and ayama means regulation or extension. So Pranayama means regulation of the breath. There are about 120 techniques to regulate the breath.

We try to feed our ‘Prana’ or life force through food, water and air. In order for life to function well, these three elements need to be supplied adequately. Yogis have concluded that there is a strong connection of the breath and the mind. When there is disturbance is the breath, the mind will get disturbed and when the mind is disturbed, the breath is also not at ease.

For human beings, when the mind is in happy state, the breath is smooth and when we are angry, the breath goes fast.  When we are not breathing well, the entire system gets affected and is disturbed. This may cause disturbance in the organs, the hormones and the entire heath.

We often hear that we need to still the mind and free it of random thoughts. But we really are unaware as to how to achieve this state. For most of us, meditation isn’t easy as there are lots of thoughts rushing in our minds. So we know how difficult it is to control our mind. Hence it becomes utmost important to regulate our breath. By regulating the breath, we can conquer the mind. The mind may wander and go into negativity, but with the help of breath, we can bring it back to the present moment and maintain balance.

Some of the most popular pranayamas are :

  1. Anulom Vilom
  2. Kapalbhatti
  3. Nadi Shodhan
  4. Ujjayi
  5. Bhastrika
  6. Chandra Loma
  7. Surya Loma
  8. Shitali
  9. Shitkari

We need to learn how to consciously breathe. If we observe any emotional turbulence in our systems, it’s time to check the breath. Try to consciously breathe deeply, and you can immediately see that your emotions are much in control. Different types of pranayama give us variety of breathing techniques. These pranayamas when performed with correct techniques, can bring immense benefits. Hence we must try to put at least one Pranayama in our daily regime so that the basic thing like breathing can enhance our lives in a massive way.

My Yoga Journey

Being born and brought up in Maharasthra (India) – a land of saints, as a kid I was always fond of Yoga and was highly convinced by the massive benefits it can bring to an individual. I always had that strong urge in me to explore my body a little bit more every time. The different crazy photos of Yoga poses never failed to amuse me. Being in the corporate industry with very hectic schedule, I never had enough time for myself.  In recent times, with the global pandemic hitting the world, self immunity had become very important to everyone to fight the virus. This was the time when I strongly felt to quit what was not truly serving me in any way and to try something that really amused me.

Joining the YTT at Tirisula was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I always wanted a guru or a teacher to guide me on my Yoga path and in my postures. After meeting the teachers here, it was the 1st thing that I realised that Yoga is not all about postures and you need not look like a leftover noodle. It was more of a lifestyle – a Yogic Lifestyle which could be developed only with patience and discipline.

Some of the keys things that I learned here and that brought about a change in my life over the last 3 weeks are as below:

In the very first class itself Master Shree explained how important it is to 1st accept the body as it is right now. Be it healthy , unhealthy, bulky or slim or not according to social norms. We are in this body, living in this body. It is doing too many things for us and never take it for granted. Our body is the place where we will be living until we die, hence learning to accept it and nurture it is most important thing that I learnt.

The Patanjali Yoga sutra ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodaha’ means try to still the fluctuations in the mind with Yoga. Master Shree kept on reminding this with every posture that we wanted to master. He always stressed that one cannot enter into any posture with ego or aggression. It can only be achieved with a clear mind.

Here I also learnt different Pranayams to achieve a mind which is clear from the nectar of thoughts. We regularly did kapalbhatti and anulom vilom pranayama to have a calm and healthy mind along with physical practices. As it was told that when the body and mind are in equilibrium, then spirituality can start.

It was also taught to us that once you master any posture, we need not be egoistic or very possessive about it. All the more our master stressed is to be detached and at the same time to be absolutely involved in all the practices. He taught the importance or performing kriya (holistic action) rather than karma (unconscious action).

As the Vedic chat goes ‘Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ , our master emphasised that as a Yoga practioner , one should slowly start shifting our focus from just me and myself to the universal well being. May everyone live happy and may everyone be free from illness.

I am still trying to adopt the teachings taught my our master and there is still a long way to go. It feels that the journey has begun just now and has many interesting things to explore and experience.

15 minutes Yoga routine – Sadhana

It is no secret that Singapore is a fast-paced society, with everyone striving to get ahead of one another. With such lifestyle it becomes utmost important to take care of the physical body and mind. I have tried to describe a few Yoga asanas and Pranayam that could be done in just 15 minutes every single day but can yield a lot more benefits.

As stated by master Sree, if one regularly practices these asanas for 48 days, (1 Mandala) there is a possibility to alter the DNA of a person. When faced with any disorder which is genetic in nature, one doesn’t  argue or reflect upon it as to why is he facing it. He just accepts it and works with the remedies to cure it. But here, with the help of Yoga and Pranayama, even this is possible.

The sequence of the exercises is as follows:

A. Kapalbhati Pranayam:

1. Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Place your hands on the knees with palms open to the sky.Take a deep breath in.

2. As you exhale, pull your stomach. Pull your navel in back towards the spine. Do as much as you comfortably can. You may keep your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract.

3. As you relax the navel and abdomen, the breath flows into your lungs automatically.

4.Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapal Bhati Pranayama.

5.After completing the round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.

 

B. Downward facing Dog:

 1. Start with table top position, then lift chest and hips off the floor. Try to raise the hips towards the ceiling.

 2. Straighten knees and elbows, forming an inverted V shape.

 3. Feet should be hip-width apart. Keep the spine and legs straight.

  4. If possible, press the heels down onto the floor. Gaze towards the navel.

 

C. Upward Facing Dog:

1. Need to lie down on the floor with belly pointing towards the floor and palms side to the body.

2.Inhale pressing your hands on the mat as you gently lift your knees, hips off the mat. Your body weight must be spread across the top of your feet and your palms.

3. Gaze in between the eyebrows.

4.Hold the pose for a few seconds. Exhale and release.

 

D. Forward Bend

1. Exhaling, lengthen the spine, fold forward from the hips with belly in.

2.Place palms down next to respective feet.

3. With every exhalation try to bring the face close to the thighs.

 

E:  Shoulderstand 

1. Lie on the back

2. Inhale raise the legs upwards and lengthen the spine. Feel the upward lifting action. Place your palms on the upper body until you balance.

3. Exhale Support the shoulder blades with your palms, grounding elbows and shoulders – stay for 25 breaths in this pose.

F:   Fish pose

1.Lie down on your back  legs extended and  arms resting alongside the body with palms down.

2.Lift your chest to create an arch in your upper back by pressing forearms and elbows into the floor.

3.Tilt your head back and  bring the crown of your head to the floor.

4. Keep pressing through your hands and forearms. There should be very little weight pressing through your head.

Surya Namaskar : To start the day with

Surya means ‘SUN’ and Namaskar means ‘SALUTATION’. So the exact translation of Surya Namaskar is ‘Sun Salutation’. It is the act of bowing down to the sun with utmost gratitude and endurance. In ancient Indian traditions, Sun Salutations were performed at dawn with the rising sun. The sun being vital source of energy was worshipped in most traditions.

Among all the elements of nature and the divine energies, the solar energy is the most powerful and has remained untouched by any impurities. Mankind activities in recent times have adversely affected other elements like air and water causing a lot of pollution. However, the solar power is the one which cannot be contaminated. Hence for more than one reason, it is always advisable to salute the sun and be receptive for a transformation.

The sun is the main source of energy for all life on the planet,  hence  ‘Surya Namaskar’ cannot be considered as just another form of exercise or combination of asanas. Only with this realisation, there is a possibility of maximum benefit from the ‘SUN’ element.

The solar cycle is at about twelve and a quarter years. The 12 postures of Sun Salutations are not by accident but by intent to keep up the individual cycle in sync with the solar cycle. By being in sync with the solar cycle one can be balanced and receptive.

For most Yoga practices, the Sun Salutations have just become the practice to warm up the body and is done at the beginning of each class. It is always done in auto-pilot mode without being present with it. If the bowing down to the sun is done consciously with surrender, it can bring a certain level of devotion, meditativeness and compassion within oneself. This is when actual transformation is possible with a certain level chemistry being changed within the body.

Some of the physical benefits of Surya Namaskar are as below:

  1. Warms up the body, loosens the joints
  2. Stretches the spine in different directions
  3. Stretches and tones the major muscles, e.g. hamstrings, abdominal
    muscles, arms
  4. Improves overall flexibility
  5. Increases blood circulation and flow of prana
  6. Increase lymphatic circulation hence speeds up the removal of toxins
  7. Exercises cardiovascular system
  8. Massages the internal organs, e.g. digestive organs, reproductive organs
  9. Regulates the pingala nadi which is the solar energy channel in the body
  10. Enhances memory and concentration
  11. Invigorates the nervous system as spine is stretched
  12. Promotes good sleep and calms anxiety