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!