Day # 19 of “A.O.Y. 21 Day Immersion”… “Pranayama and the Lion’s Roar!”

Today i want to share a little about “Pranayama”… one of the great contributions coming through Yoga from the ancient Rishi’s of India
Perhaps no bodily process we do is as important and mysterious as breathing… actually- that is not true… EVERYTHING WE DO is important and mysterious!  But let’s tune in again to the incredible process of respiration.
The credit for making the practice of “Pranayama” popular as a discipline in its own right and as a means for maintaining the health of the body and mind goes to the followers of Hatha yoga.  In simple terms, pranayama may be called the “conscious control of the breath”.  Its essence lies in the ‘modification’ of our normal process of breathing.    Think about this:  Breathing is an act in which we take in air from the atmosphere into our lungs… absorb the the oxygen from it into our blood { which then circulates the “prana” throughout our whole Energy-Field}… we then ‘expel’ the air again into the atmosphere together with carbon dioxide and water vapor.  This act of inhalation and exhalation is repeated every 4 to 5 seconds… Thus, we normally breathe about 15 times every minute- each time taking about 500 ml. of air into the lungs.  So we inhale and exhale approximately seven litres of air per minute!  George Gurdjieff, the great Russian mystic { one of my absolute favorite authors and inspirations! } has called breathing “our second food- designed for our Energy body }
Every kind of modification {or change} of this normal breathing process would not count as “pranayama”.  Our normal breathing pattern shows marked changes under various conditions… For instance, while we are liftings or carrying loads, walking uphill, running, or doing any physical exercise, we breathe more rapidly and forcefully.  At high altitudes, in a rarefied atmosphere, our breathing becomes heavy.  Its pattern changes with emotional excitement and in the case of disorders such as asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and other lung affections.  Modification of breathing under these conditions is brought about “involuntarily”, and perhaps without awareness of it unless there is difficulty in breathing.  In fact- the majority of people are hardly ever aware of the fact that we are breathing.
Pranayama consists of modifications of the breathing process which we bring about deliberately and consciously.  We can modify our breathing in 3 different ways:
1}  By inhaling and exhaling rapidly, taking shallow breaths.
2}  By inhaling and exhaling slowly, taking long or deep breaths.
3}  By stopping the act of breathing altogether.

The first way of modifying breathing is not usually included in ‘pranayama’ proper, although it is sometimes closely associated with it.  The second and third ways mentioned above co-belong to the domain of pranayama.  In fact, pranayama practice may very well be summarised in these two ways.  Let me mention here that pranayama practice is defined by Patanjali as “a modification of breathing in a sitting posture which is steady

“Thunderbolt” posture “Vajra Asana”

and comfortable”.  Such a posture is an essential part of pranayama.

Thus, pranyama is a complex act in which after taking an appropriate posture, the yogi { you in this instance! } inhales  and exhales slowly, deeply, and completely, and also stops the breath.  The Yogic term for inhalation in pranayama is called “Puraka”, which literally means “the act of filling”.  Exhalation is called “Rechaka”, meaning “the act of emptying”.  Retention of breath is called “Kumbhaka”.  “Kumbha” means a water pot.  Just as a water pot holds water when it is filled with it, so in kumbhaka the breath is held after filling the lungs.  Actually, kumbhaka can be practised in two ways.  We can hold the breath in after a puraka, or we can hold the breath out after a rechaka.

Three Components of Pranayama

In any discussion of Pranayama there are three technical terms often repeated.  The significance of these three terms should be very clear.  The terms are:  puraka, rechaka, and kumbhaka, which i have just mentioned.
A “puraka” in pranayama is the act of inhalation which fulfills the following conditions:
(a)  it should be deep and complete.  At the end of puraka the lungs should be filled completely, with a full expansion of all the parts of the lungs  {upper, middle, and lower}.
(b)  It should be a slow act, there being no extra force applied for sucking the air in.
(c)  The flow of air should be uniform from the beginning to the end of a puraka.
(d)  The time taken by each puraka in successive rounds of a sitting should be the same.
Thus, puraka is not just any form of inhalation, but it is a conscious, controlled inhalation fulfilling the above four conditions.
Similarly, “rechaka” is not just exhalation.  It means a controlled exhalation which is slow, deep, uniform, and completed in equal time in each round. At the end of a rechaka the lungs should be emptied to the maximum extent, their tissues contracting as much as possible.
In the question of “kumbhaka” there is no question of speed, movement of breath, uniformity, or depth.  It involves stopping all movements of breath by holding all the breathing parts still.
So practice the “8:4:8:4″ breathing method i shared on Day # 5 { } with this definition of Pranayama in mind.
The posture for Pranayama is sitting with your spine erect, either on your heels or cross-legged.  Relax the muscles as much as possible… take it easy.  Especially let the frontal bone area and around your eyes relax.  One of my favorite pranayamas is called “Kapalabati”, which means “cleaning the smoke from the skull”.  It is great for also for restoring sensitivity to the nasal passages.  It is easy… rapid, shallow breaths thru the nose… “the breath of fire”.  Try 20 rounds at first… let the last inhale be a slow, deep, full “puraka’.  Then perform “kumbhaka” as long as you can, holding the muscles of your perineum tight… then allow a slow, full “rechaka”.  Give time to “feel the effects”, then perform another one to three rounds.


Lion’s Roar…

The Lion’s Roar

This is a very fun and very healthy breathing exercise.  Kneeling on your heels, allow a slow, full “puraka”.  Then,  with a very powerful exhalation and sound through the mouth… open your eyes wide, stick your tongue out as far as you can with open mouth… and move your face muscles around.  Allow the “kumbhaka” to be as long as you comfortably can.  Then breathe normally for some time, before repeating.  By the way- this is VERY good for face, throat, and tongue… as well as a tremendous release of stuck energy.  The Lion’s Roar is very good in the morning  {much more effective than coffee for waking up!} and also good to do after work in the evening.
Lion’s Roar- Anasha
Now i need to stop… our ARUN “Freedom from Pain” weekend starts soon.  I will share more about Pranayama in the UTA Training, and also here on the ARUN Blog.
Have a beautiful weekend.

Lots of love,

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