Following our theory session on Pranayama in the third weekend of our training course, I thought I could experiment with incorporating in my morning walks the key Pranayama techniques that Master Paalu had taught us. These were:
- Gentle, regulated and extended breath
- Using the standard ratio of 1:2 (inhalation:exhalation)
I started with the most basic ratio of 4 counts of inhalation to 8 counts of exhalation. Even then, it was not as easy as I had thought! I had to slow down my steps, and concentrate hard on coordinating each footstep with a breath count to achieve the desired regulated state. I must have looked pretty strange to passers-by in the first few days of my experiment.
As the days passed, I grew more comfortable with the experience, and was able to lengthen the breath counts slightly, even fitting in breath retention in between. Personally, I still find the mindful walking practice described in my earlier blog which involves focusing on the surroundings more enjoyable. However, I do find this practice of “walking Pranayama” a lot more effective in helping to sharpen mental concentration.
Curious to find out if “walking Pranayama” is just my own somewhat unorthodox approach, I decided to do some research on this topic. I found out that walking meditation is indeed practised in several branches of the Buddhist tradition, typically in between periods of sitting meditation.
When it comes to the Yoga tradition, Pranayama is certainly predominantly a seated practice. Nonetheless, there does exist a practice named Bhramana Pranayama (“going round” Pranayama) which is the practice of controlled breathing performed while walking.
Some of the benefits of Bhramana Pranayama include improving stamina and endurance through fine-tuning the heart and lung, and releasing negative thought and energy.
This practice could be a less intimidating entry-point for beginners to the Pranayama practice, or perhaps a nice occasional alternative to a seated Pranayama practice for more active people who find it challenging to stay focused while staying still.
I can’t wait for the day when I can practise this without having to wear a face mask!
Yoga is beyond asanas. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’.
Our journey on this earth will start and end with a single breath. Yet most of us have forgotten that breathing is so essential to our life. In our day to day life we are oblivious to it. And in truth we are really bad at it, well at least I know I was. I really wish I’d been taught how to breathe better at school or as part of physical education. It is a skill we would really benefit from an early age and for the long term…
The great gift of the breath is that it is also a volontary action, so we can take control and train our breath, with care.
First by just paying attention, how is our breathing pattern in this instant? Is my breathing long, deep, shallow, fast? Do I have a dominant nostril? Is the breathing pattern flowing smoothly or restrained in some areas? Gaining awareness of our breath is already a major first step.
Then by acting on the breath through Pranayama. What would be the most beneficial practice in this instant?, would it be to try to calm your mental state?, to energise you?, to balance your left and right channels?, to deepen your breath, making the inhale and/or exhale longer?
There are many different techniques depending on the benefit one is looking for. It doesn’t necessarily take long 10′ can be sufficient, although 20-40′ are recommended. Befriend your breath again and the changes will happen through a steady and regular practice. Remember there is no rush as this is one a few activity we’ll be able to practice till the end of our life 😉
After a few days on the mat, things are supposed to get better, but is it really the case?
The body is feeling sore, and during Asanas each diificulty gives the mind an opportunity to jump in and challenge the situation.
‘I can’t do this’…,
– just breathe and move with the flow without thinking about what comes next.
‘What am I doing here?’…,
-just breathing, nothing else to think or do.
‘I feel so tired’… ,
– but I can still breathe!, this is what matters for now and it is just enough to make it to the next move.
‘Maybe I’ll injure myself if I go so deep in this pose’…,
– just breathe, stay centered, steady, focus on your bandhas, feel lighter, trust the teachers, the process and yourself…
‘How many more Vinyasa ane Chaturanga can I endure?’… – who cares, just this one matters, breathe, feel your body pulsating, feel just how good this inhalation is.
Don’t pay attention to whatever comes through the mind, just focus, just breathe, discover the joy of this single, simple breath and ride on it like on a wave, and the next one…, and the following one…
This is a lesson plan for advanced beginners or intermediate practitioners. Focus is on synchronising the breath with each movement, and each asana builds up to the next flow.
1. Greet class; introduce myself
2. Check medical history or first timers
3. Introduce Ujjayi breath and how it should be used throughout the class
4. Calm breath and centre mind (1 minute)
5. Cat and cow poses (8 breaths)
6. Move into downward dog (5 breaths)
7. Uttanasana (raise heads halfway for 5 breaths)
8. Suria Namaskara A (2 rounds)
9. Go into a flow series where one asana is added each round. A vinyasa is done with each flow.
Flow 1: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II
Flow 2: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II – Reverse warrior
Flow 3: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II – Reverse warrior – Utthita Parsvakonasana
10. Tadasana (mountain pose for 5 breaths)
11. Vrikshasana (tree pose; one on each side)
12. Preparatory pose: Half bow (one on each side)
13. Preparatory pose: Locust
14. Full pose: Dhanurasana (wheel)
15. Rest in Child’s pose
16. Get up slowly into a Rabbit pose
17. Janu sirsasana (one on each leg)
18. Paschimottanasana (2 times, hold for 3 breaths each)
19. Urdhva Dhanurasana (2 times for 5 breaths each; bridge as variation)
20. Release into supine twist as a counter pose
21. Happy baby pose
22. Savasana (5 mins)
May the breath be with you.
Kriya (in Sanskrit “action, deed, effort”) most commonly refers to a “completed action”, technique or practice within a yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. Types of kriya may vary widely between different schools of yoga. Another meaning of Kriya is the outward physical manifestations of awakened kundalini. Kriyas can also be the spontaneous movements resulting from the awakening of Kundalini energy.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the six kriya cleansing techniques. These techniques should only be practiced under proper guidance especially for first timer:
In this article, Jala neti will be discussed in detail including the benefits and methods.Jala neti importance in yoga dates back to thousands of year.In order to benefit from yoga, it is imperative to breathe fully and deeply through the nose and this is especially needed in Pranayama. Pranayama is all about regulating and controlling the breath and sustaining the life force in us. It is responsible to bring about tremendous changes in our body and mind. Therefore, jala neti is important to ensure that our breath flow can be regulated. Through this cleansing, the pituitary gland will be stimulated which awakens the energy center behind the forehead called the Ajna Chakra.This Chakra must be sufficiently stimulated for higher states of meditation.In addition, Jala neti also helps in relaxation with unobstructed and freely flowing breath.This helps to ensure an abundant supply of oxygen at the right temperature to stimulate relaxation.All these benefits sum up the importance of Jala neti in Yoga practice.
For this technique, lukewarm isotonic salt water is poured into one nostril, so that it leaves through the other. The procedure is then repeated on the other side, and the nose is dried by bending forward and by rapid breathing.It is also possible to sniff the water in so that it runs into the mouth, and to spit it out. In a more advanced reverse variant, the water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out of the nose.
- Clears the nasal cavities and passageways
- Regulate nose breathing
- Flushes the tear ducts
- Rejuvenate your sense of smell and taste
- Stimulates the Ajna chakra
- Stimulate relaxation nd beneficial in meditation
- Moisten the dry nasal cavities and passageways
- Reduce diseases like asthma and bronchitis and chronicsinusitis
- Neti pot
- Pure water
- over a sink,
- a bowl on a table,
- in the shower or
- First fill the Neti Potwith warm water of a temperature suitable for pouring in the nose. Neither too hot or cold.
- Pure water is best if available. Mix in salt to the proportion of one teaspoon for half a litre of water. This equates to 0.9% and is called isotonic solution – the same as human blood. Sea salt is best if available.
- Mix well so that the salt is diluted completely. You will find all this out with growing experience, it differs from person to person. Some like a higher saline solution, some even do it without salt. The tissue of the nose is very sensitive and reacts immediately if something is not right.
- Place the nose cone into the right nostril, sealing it inside the nostril with a few twists and slight pressure. Try to point the spout straight up in line with the nasal passage so as not to block off the tip of the nozzle on the inside of the nose.
- Open your mouth and breathe gently through the mouth. .
- Now slowly bend forward from the waist so that the tip of the nose is the lowest point of the head; and then tilt/roll the head to the right, so that the left nostril is now the lowest point of the nose. Tilt slowly so that water doesn’t run out the top of the pot onto your face.
- Keep the nose cone fully sealed into the right nostril so that it doesn’t leak. Keep on mouth breathing whiles the water comes through. Just wait a few seconds and the water should run out the left nostril.
- keep breathing slowly and gently through the mouth. After the water begins to run, wait about 30 seconds for about half a pot to flow right to left, and then remove the pot and stand up.
- Before changing sides, blow out gently through both nostrils to clear water and mucus from the nose.
- Repeat the steps as above, but with the nose cone entering the left nostril and the flow of water going left to right.
- After the pot runs dry, stand up, blow out gently through both nostrils and then prepare to dry out the nose.
- Repeat the whole process if there is still a mucus blockage. However, it is recommended to see a doctor after a few trial as there might besome structural blockage in the nose.
- If further guidance is needed, do ask any yoga practitioner for help.
- Nose drying is very important and always remember to do this.
- Bend forwards from the waist and hang head upside down with the nose pointing towards the floor. Point the nose towards the knees and let any residual water drain from the nose. Gently breath in the mouth and out for 10 breaths.
- Then stand up and do some fast breathing through the nostril for 10 breaths, sniffing in and out moderately. Close of the right nostril with one finger and do 10 fast sniffing through the left nostril only. Repeat this on the other side of the nostril.
- Lastly, do 10 fast sniffing breath through both nostrils together.
- If you feel there are still some residual water, repeat the whole drying process.
- Drying nose is very important so as to prevent manifestation of cold and also infection in the sinus passages/ eustachian tubes.
Dugdha Neti – Neti with Milk
- This method is good for those suffering from chronic nose bleeds or are sensitive towards salty water.
- It is best done after using salty water
- The flow of milk do not go from one side to another , it only fills the ingoing nostril and then withdrawn
- Once from each side is sufficient.
- This practice should be done under proper guidance and not done excessively.
One of the reasons I started practicing yoga regularly is the effect that I noticed yoga has on me in terms of helping me relieve stress. No matter what stress burdens I carry into the yoga practice, I always come back from svasana feeling more centered and calm. Always. When we experience high levels of stress, yoga philosophy describes our mind as going into a rajasic state characterised by agitation, tension (hence tension headaches) and flitting thoughts. Asanas that stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system such as saravangasana (shoulderstand) and baddha konasana (bound angle forward bend) can help to calm the rajasic mind. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that there is a strong link between pranayama (yogic breathing) and state of mind.
When we are in a rajasic state of mind, our breathing is often rapid and shallow and our sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. Ujjayi breath has a calming ability in that when we breathe through our nose and constrict our throat, we increase the air resistance in our nasal passages which in turn slows down our respiratory rate. As we lengthen the exhalation to twice that of inhalation (e.g. 1:2 ratio) we also increase the circulation of oxygen in our body and release carbon dioxide more slowly. The ocean-like sound created when we practice ujjayi breath also serves as a meditative center that we can focus on all of which helps us to come to a more sattvic state of mind.
I’ve found ujjayi breath invaluable and has taken it to work and used it whenever I feel stressed. The age-old adage ‘just breathe!’ has been imbued with new meaning for me indeed.
Now back to the main part. So how do you maintain your relationship?
You want to get the your the other half to listen and at the same time hear you out instead of putting you down all the time.
This is the practice known as “Ujjayi” breathing or pranayama technique.
Ujjayi Pranayama – With Bandhas (With Breath retention)
Sanskrit: Ud-jayi Ud=Upward or Superior; Jaya=Conquest/Victory. Also implies restraint or curbing
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika Says about Ujjayi:
Closing the mouth, inhale with control and concentration through the ida and pingala. so that the breath is felt from the throat to the heart and produces a sonorous sound.
This pranayama, called Ujjayi, can be done while moving, standing, sitting or walking. It removes dropsy and disorders of the nadis and dhatu.
Indications:Insomnia, Fluid retention in the body, High blood pressure, Nervousness, Phlegm in lungs
Contra-Indications:People who are excessively introverted should not practise this in excess. Those having heart disease or blood pressure should not practise with Bandhas.
For practise with Bandhas you should avoid alcohol, intoxicants and meat
Benefits of Ujjayi:
- Ujjayi is one of the pranayamas that all beginners should practise. It aids in quieting the tumultous, chaotic and outward going mind and helps it to increase its awareness of the internals. It is will also improve you practise of asanas greatly by increasing awareness of the changes happening within.
- Ujjayi is a tranquilizing pranayama and is profoundly relaxing at the psychic level and is very effective in soothing the nervous system or decreasing hyperactivity. The effects are obvious within a couple of days of practise.
- It is a good cure for insomnia if practised in a lying down posture Shavasana before going to bed. It also has a heating effect on the body and eliminates excess accumulated fluids in the body.
- Ujjayi promotes internalization of the senses (making the senses look inward) and is beneficial for the practise of meditation, and for the practise of pratyahara (which is one of the more advanced practises in ashtanga yoga).
- Finally, Ujjayi pranayama promotes a healthy relationship with spouses and partners alike. It can be the cure for a lot of relationship ills that has been marring couples through all ages.
Look out for more details in the next blog.