Pranayama and Dealing with Tattoo Pain

     Random cool tattooed yogi [1]

First world problems, I know. What with all the world’s best doctors and scientists hard at work developing links between yoga and its effectiveness for use in treatments of REAL pathologies, it’s granted that more inspired topics are to be regulated to the backburner, and the scientific community at large can surely be forgiven for overlooking this potentially very fruitful area of research.

But such is. And we can’t all be engaged in solving life’s big problems, need some of us to engage in the little ones as well. Like ya know, dealing with tattoo pains. We all do our own part, eh?

 

Pranayama

So a quick recap on pranayama. That’s the thing you do (or try to do) during your weekly yoga classes right;

Controlled breath in. Controlled breath out. Hold for 6 counts. In… out… 

In…. out….

Stretch out your breaths, until the thoughts ease off from your mind. Your heart slows. Your muscles relax. Time unwinds, consciousness eases, softens and fades off into the background.

Going to go catch some samadhi’s. [2]

In yogic practice, breath represents (or ontologically supervenes on) prana (lifeforce). Regulation of the breath entails regulation of your lifeforce. When I stretch out my breathing, I draw out my life force. As I harmonize my breathing, I clear up my vital energies, and prepare my mind-body to transition into the next stage of heightened consciousness.

Pranayama brings about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses and an inward turn of consciousness). Pratyahara further facilitates progression towards dharana, dhyana, and the superconscious samadhi. 

Now, I’d love as much as anyone to reach this samadhic enlightenment. But a dude’s still gotta navigate all the toil and toil and tribulations of samsara, ya know? Eventual self-actualization defo stays in the books, but I’ve a scheduled needling appointment soon, and I’d really like all the help I can get for that next marathon session coming up.

 

Pranayama and Pain Management

I think anyone who has gone for one of those hardcore Yin Yoga classes can immediately relate to the pain-management benefits of controlled breathing during a long drawn out and particularly excruciating frog, lizard or king pigeon pose. Fold deeper, keep breathing. Push deeper on each exhalation, breath into those knots and tight areas. Fold deeper. A bit more. A bit more And then the insane bastard actually comes over and pushes you balls deep into the stretch, into that white abyss of pain. Gotta love those Yin classes.

Don’t let that smile fool you. This here is the true face of pain. [3]

Going to geek out a little bit here on the physio-neurological basis for the efficacy of pranayama on pain management. For those not entirely turned on by latin gobbledygook, skip straight ahead to the next pretty picture below.

For the rest of you intellectual types; regulated breathing leverages the bidirectional affect between (para-)/sympathetic state activation and directive electric signals originating from the central nervous system (“CNS”). Conscious activation of segments of the overall (para-)/sympathetic response (i.e. the slow, deep breathing part of an overall relaxed state) in turn triggers the unconscious sensory neurons transmitting parasympathetic activation back up the CNS into the brain, who then plays catch up by transmitting further motor signals down the spine out the rest of your peripheral nervous system. Upregulation of the parasympathetic (relaxed muscles, slow breathing, steady heartbeat) state opposes the rival sympathetic state activation (fight or flight; erratic heartbeats, cold sweats, jitters, pain sensitivity, tensed up muscles). By a parallel and identical process, similar activation towards the sympathetic state can be achieved through conscious exercise of rapid forceful breathing (e.g. kapalbhati), which transmits back up to the CNS, back down to the sympathetic nervous system as so.

I picked most of this from wikipedia by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

Now there’s a good bit of research attempting to close the final leg from (para-)/sympathetic state activation and pain sensitivity. The interface between subjective mental experiences (the feeling of pain) and neuro-physiological body states has always been a bit tricky to bridge. Observed behavioral responses and subjective reporting of pain would to be sure show some difference when obtained from a sympathetically activated individual or a para-sympathetically inclined one. It’s one thing to observe behavioral responses, and another to conclude that the pain was experienced mentally, internally as more painful; am I just overreacting, or am I really feeling more pain? 

Nevertheless, I’ll just throw out here the bits we wanted to hear; the experimental controlled trigger of pain and its association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. [4] Pranayama and its promising use in patients with pain related pathologies. [5]

Tattoo Pain Chart [6]

But anywho, some personal n=1 experience has informed me that that long, deep breathing REALLY helps during the particularly wee sensitive bits in the ink session; Nice long slow breaths in the green. Some REALLY HEAVY DEEP BREATHS as we move on to the red. Take a 5 minute breather to help clear your mind, then that existential dread again and that moment of panic right as the needle homes into your skin…!!!!!!!…!!…haaaaaa…… Oohh yer fluffin beautie.

Granted there are probably even more niche areas for controlled breath applications out there. Like getting a covid/flu jab. Like when going for a foot massage. Or going to the dentist. Don’t know anything about those, I’m trying to write for the everyman here.

Calm mind through long slow breaths. Reversal of cause and effect. A real wonder of science, that pranayama.

 

Takeaways

– Slow, controlled breathing makes me less of a fidgety beech during tattoo sessions. 

– There’s a bit of science backing the idea that pranayama can help with pain (or at least its management)

– Bit of pranayama would probably help with my spiritual side too, enlightenment and all.

 

Will end off with a bit of #inkspiration, because dayum, some of these pins look mighty fine. 

 

One day, I too will be able to be like that. [7]

 

[1]: https://thetattooedbuddha.com/2016/09/04/the-tattooed-yoga-project-building-community-through-art/ 

[2]: https://www.indiadivine.org/prana-and-pranayama/ 

[3]: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-to-do-frog-pose

[4]: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Jacob Tindle; Prasanna Tadi.[2020]

[5]: Yoga: Can It Be Integrated with Treatment of Neuropathic Pain, Telles S. · Sayal N. · Nacht C. · Chopra A. · Patel K. · Wnuk A. · Dalvi P. · Bhatia K. · Miranpuri G. · Anand A. [2017]

[6]: https://www.facebook.com/rxtattoomd/posts/tattoo-pain-chart/453490595301962/ 

[7]: https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1617350

 

Practical Application of the 3 Gunas in Food and Fishing

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The three Gunas describes 3 basic qualities or tendencies that groups states (harmony, activity, chaos), attitudes (positivity, self-centeredness, apathy) and dispositions (peacefulness, dynamism, ignorance) that is generally encountered together in daily life.

This system provides a useful conceptual framework to help understand, categorize and leverage in our life’s undertakings. The following details my attempt to outline a practical application of the 3 Gunas framework in the (hypothetical) feeding, capture and post-catch management of a really hot guy/(s).

It is my hope that this contribution to the yogic community will provide an aspirational yogi at least some help to attain their happiness, or at least bring the rest of us a little amusement in hearing about how the capture attempt goes.

 

Three Gunas & Food:

The following table handily summarizes the categories of food that promotes the respective attitudes. Identical tables, charts and infographics can very easily be found through a quick check with Google.

   
Figure 1: Food that promote the 3 Gunas [1]

The long and short of it is that the eating certain types of food will promote certain kind of energies. Managing the types and proportions of food you eat will assist to regulate your energies (sattva, rajas, tamas); eating chicken if you’re a tamasic kind of person who needs a bit of energy, minimizing spicy food and downing some nuts if you’re the rajasic sort who needs to prepare for a presentation, etc etc.

The standard application prescribes the active evaluation and choice of food types to facilitate the yogi’s own life practices. Numero Uno. Yours truly. The one and only.

But that’s boring. Managing [2] others based on your esoteric yogic guru super-wisdom is where it’s at.

[1] The Gunas in Yoga – Understanding the Significance, [https://yogacentral.in/2017/09/12/gunas-yoga-significance/], YogaCentral [2017]

[2] /məˌnɪpjʊˈleɪʃ(ə)n/. Verb. The action of manipulating something in a skilful manner.

 

A Very Practical Problem

You’re you. You’ve just trudged through an exhausting week of meetings, emergencies, client/customer management and snide passive aggression from your bosses/colleagues over the past five days.

You’re dragged your miserable self down to a fancy bar on a Friday night. You meet this cute guy, struck up a discussion and immediately hit it off. You two had an engaging discussion of the Bhagavad Gita and Sankhya philosophy because you’re both kindred modern enlightened new-age spiritual liberal types like that.

You somehow worked up the courage to invite him back to your sweet (hypothetical) bachelorette pad for a nice meal together. You have just opened your fridge at your generously stocked kitchen when you snapped a little out of your martini-tipsiness;
“Oh sh~eesh. I have no idea what I should cook here.”

What is a girl/non-binary/liberal-male to do?

 

Scenario 1: Mr Tamasic
“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Tamasic is quite a looker. Unfortunately, he’s also a tad bit apathetic, lethargy and slow on the uptake. Left on his own, this fella doesn’t seem to have the initiative to really step/stand-up, hold himself erect, and really bring things forward tonight.

In this case, you want to cook up something to really ramp up his rajasic energies (Passion, desire & attachment), and a dash of stattvic (Truth, Intelligence & consciousness) to open his eyes to what a treasure he is missing out on if he doesn’t hustle and seize the damn opportunities when they’re standing right in front of him.

Here’s a couple of nice recipes to get his blood boiling:

– Indian Chicken Curry (Murgh Kari): https://www.simplycook.com/recipes/murgh-kari-for-2
– Tamarind Fish Curry (Asam Pedas Ikan Pari): https://www.nyonyacooking.com/recipes/asam-pedas-ikan-pari~ByZH_viDfcZQ
– Lemon Daal (Nimmakaya Pappu): https://blogexplore.com/food/curries-gravies/nimmakaya-pappu-lemony-dal-recipe/

 

Scenario 2: Mr Rajasic
“When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Rajasic is a total hottie. Unfortunately, he also appears just a tad bit hot-headed, impulsive, wilful, and maybe a little wild. While you’re interested to secure a little more than just the passing acquaintance with this eligible bachelor, you’re worried of the seemingly considerable risk of a one-night stand, a passing fancy, and/or a pelvic fracture/sore hips the next day.

We really want to tone down Mr Rajasic’s rajas over here. Really load up on the tamas to get him nice and satiated. A lot of red meat, some mushroom sauce, a few bottles of red wine for extra romance. Hold the coffee, garlic, and for God’s sake, do not feed the man any spicy curries.

Try one of these recipes:

– Steak with mushroom gravy: https://cafedelites.com/ribeye-steaks-with-mushroom-gravy/
– Juicy Steakhouse Burger: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/steakhouse-burgers.html

 

Scenario 3: Mr Sattvic
“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now, Mr Sattvic is an intelligent (and very attractive) chap. He says all the right words, makes all the right moves, makes you laugh with his witty jokes, fascinates you with his insightful observations. Unfortunately, he might be just a little bit too clever, able to sniff out your plans and check all your advances. Can’t have that upsetting the balance of power in your future relationship.

Where we’d usually promote the consumption of sattvic food, here we want to do the exact opposite; stuff the fella full of rajasic and tamasic food to throw him off balance;
“Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu

Here’s a couple of nice dishes to obfuscate, obscurate, and enfeeble:

– Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani): https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/butter-chicken/
– Paneer Tikka: https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/paneer-tikka-on-stove-top/
– Aloo Chaat: https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/aloo-chaat-recipe/
– 5 Minute Chocolate Pudding: https://laughingspatula.com/5-minute-chocolate-pudding

 

Back to Basics: Self-care

Of course, being busy with whipping up specially tailored epicurean gastronomical miscellany is no excuse to neglect the proper care and maintenance of player one. In between juggling 4 frying pans, 2 stewing pots and a smoking oven that’s just about the trigger the fire alarm, one should make sure to whip out a solid sattvic main to keep yourself primed and alert during the coming meal.

Probably a small pretty salad, a plate of fresh fruits and a nice pot of herbal tea. Just tell your wondering meal buddy that you’re on a diet. Maybe leave the washing for tomorrow.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19885314/mediterranean-chickpea-salad-recipe/
Fruit platter: https://divascancook.com/how-to-make-a-fruit-tray-beautiful-fruit-platter-idea/
Homemade Herbal Tea: https://www.acouplecooks.com/herbal-tea-recipes/

I don’t think we have had enough Art of War quotes. Here’s one more for good measure:

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

P.S. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.