Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part One

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start?

According to how I was taught there two possibilities, that of using ratio and that of using nostril techniques. Desikachar taught me, both for my personal practice and teaching skill base, that the journey towards Prāṇāyāma starts with the former before being enhanced and refined through the latter.

According to Krishnamacharya’s methodology around developing the breath aspect of the students practice, initially through Āsana and Mudrā and ultimately through Prāṇāyāma, begins with what happens in and to the breath in Āsana.

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Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

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Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

Prāṇāyāma Practice as a Four Quadrant Tool for the Mind…..

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Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Morning,
– Can be a Means to Hone the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Afternoon,
– Can be a Means to Refresh the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Evening,
– Can be a Means to Clear the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Night,
– Can be a Means to Settle the Mind.

Prāṇa is the élan vital……

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Prāṇa is the élan vital.
It is the mover and the sustainer of the body in all living beings.
Because of this all pervasive movement and irrepressible vitality,
it is also hard to keep reined in through the ten sensory horses.
When the personalised field of Prāṇa becomes unreined,
it transforms into Vāta and the system becomes disturbed.
The primary practice in Yoga to minimise the conversion of Prāṇa into Vāta is Prāṇāyāma.”

Primary Prāṇāyāma Techniques as taught by Krishnamacharya and Desikachar

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1. Primary Prāṇāyāma Techniques

Anuloma Ujjāyī
– Inhale or Pūraka both Nostrils with Ujjāyī Throat Control
– Alternate Nostril Exhale (Starting with Left)

Viloma Ujjāyī
– Alternate Nostril Inhale (Starting with Left)
– Exhale or Recaka both Nostrils with Ujjāyī Throat Control

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

In the previous three articles in this series we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul, rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

The third post developed this idea of making time for the practice of Prāṇāyāma by considering the need to add a fixed and consistent time slot within which to build content. We explored this question by looking at the relationship between Āsana and Prāṇāyāma and considered the relationship between the proportions of the time we devote to each.

In this and the next post we will look at some of the techniques that are considered a necessary prerequisite in our journey towards establishing a what would be seen by my teachers as a complete Prāṇāyāma practice.

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

In the previous two articles we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

I would like to use this post to consider how we need to add a structure within which we can build content. Without a structure our practice in this area can easily become random in terms of length or haphazard in terms of consistency.

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

Continuing on from the previous post introducing the question of where to start in our investigation of our breath in Āsana in preparation for establishing and sustaining a consistent base within a Prāṇāyāma practice.

This also needs to be a base practice that both supports our day to day needs and yet allows it, as in any relationship, to grow and develop in terms of intensity and progress.

In this earlier post on where to start there were some key points that I would summarise around:

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Pratiloma Ujjāyī is a gracious Prāṇāyāma technique.

seated_pranayama_2Pratiloma Ujjāyī is a gracious Prāṇāyāma technique.

Leave more than enough time for Prāṇāyāma……

nadi_sodanaOne of the joyful experiences that can emerge within my morning practice is the feeling that arises on arriving at my Prāṇāyāma seat and taking that first breath within an atmosphere of having more than enough time in hand left to engage with this aspect of my on the mat Sādhana that day.

The sense of Sukha is palpable and offers a spaciousness that facilitates the breath both relaxing and entering into the spirit of, as Krishnamacharya spoke of in terms of Prāṇāyāma, Prayatna Śaithilya and Ananta Samāpatti.

This feeling in itself both automatically lengthens and deepens the flow of the breath without any conscious effort on my part. A precious gift to start my days journey into exploring this vital area of practice.

A constant reminder, if not rejoinder, to not forget to leave more than enough time for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice, or that which is oft easily at best compromised or at worst, forgotten within the seduction of the bodily experiences.

Prāṇāyāma within Rāja Yoga and Haṭha Yoga

 

According to the Yoga Kuṇḍalinī Upaniṣad verse 1 – the activity of Citta or psyche has two causes, the movement of Vāsana or latent impressions and the movement of Vāyu or Prāṇa. If one of them is active so is the other, equally if one of them is influenced so is the other.

These are the primary foci within the principles and practices of Rāja Yoga around Citta and Haṭha Yoga around Prāṇa. In terms of primary practices common to both we have Prāṇāyāma.

However as with Āsana within either Rāja Yoga and Haṭha Yoga (a topic for a future post), there are different priorities in the viniyoga (application) of this common primary tool.

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The Link between the practice limbs of Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam

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The Link between the practice limbs of Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam

One of the essences of Krishnamacaharya’s and Desikachar’s teaching focused on the developmental and progressive integration of the different aspects of ĀsanaMudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam into a single constantly evolving organism.

Thus in honouring the Paramparā it is not possible for me to separate these four practice components into four completely disconnected study topics to be learnt in any random order.

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The relationship between Prāṇāyāma and Āsana

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When considering the relationship between Prāṇāyāma and Āsana experientially we might wish to explore the practice of Prāṇāyāma and its developmental conjunction to Āsana via the following compass points.

Within the sacred marriage of Prāṇāyāma to Āsana, Prāṇāyāma can have three roles in influencing the physical, energetic, psychological or emotional effects arising from the practice of Āsana.

Prāṇāyāma can be applied from one of three directions to either pacify, stabilise or intensify the different levels of effects arising from the practice of  Āsana.

Prāṇāyāma was taught according to the principles of Cikitsā, Rakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa

nadi_sodanaPrāṇāyāma, as with Āsana and Dhyānam, was taught according
to the principles of CikitsāRakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama.
Thus we have breathing practices ranging from Cikitsā using simple ratio to settle an irregular breath,
to Rakṣaṇa with competence and fluidity with various basic techniques and mild ratios,
to Śikṣaṇa and mastery of all techniques, and ratios and especially,
the Kumbhaka with long holds both after the inhale and the exhale.

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There are those who can’t find time for Prāṇāyāma

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There are those who can’t find time for Prāṇāyāma but don’t make time.
There are those who can’t find time for Prāṇāyāma but do make time.

Pratiloma Ujjāyī is both an elegant and eloquent Prāṇāyāma technique.

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Pratiloma Ujjāyī is both an elegant and eloquent Prāṇāyāma technique.

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