Let’s talk Pranayama!
Whether I am happy or feeling a lull,
on a chaotic day or on a super easy day,
if I have 5 seconds or 50 minutes in an hour,
I go back to Pranayama – every day!
A decade ago, my bonding with Pranayama was quite similar to that I had with my winter clothes. I made use of both of them – once in a while however, in the last ten years that equation has changed.
No, not my equation with my winter wear but my bonding with Pranayama.
Pranayama is made up of two words – PRAN + AYAMA meaning breath control. The science of breathing combines the art of controlling when one consciously moves the breath in certain patterns. Some basic rules that I follow in my practice – I never RUSH it. Even 5 seconds of deep breathing is done with joy. A thumb rule to practice Pranayama is after I finish my asana sequencing and before meditating. At times, I only practice Pranayama. I prefer a late morning time or an early evening time to do my set of breath engagement but sometimes, I even do it during afternoon. It is best to do pranayama on an empty stomach but if one cannot, then do it on a light stomach for the obvious reason to move the abdomen properly and not let the undigested food conflict with the movement.
I ll cite an example here. I recently took two yoga sessions in the garden. Participants in the first session complained about too much sunlight (which became harsher half way through the session), some noise and small distractions that come with a public place. Interestingly, I did another class at the same spot right after the first one got over and towards the end, the participants thanked me for holding a session in an expanded space, that how much they loved the sun rays falling on their face and the energy in the space. I took feedback of both the sessions and made my points.
Now, why do I cite this example here? Different things mean differently to people. To some, Pranayama may not affect at all and for some, it could be a wonderful tool to bring daily transformations. I am in the latter category
The benefits of Pranayama are long proven in alternative therapies over decades and decades. But just to simplify, Pranayama is that conscious time-out to correct the breath patterns because during the day, we hardly notice our breath that keeps going haywire. We do not utilize our lungs to full capacity in the normal course of the day while in Pranayama, we do. Statistically, our lungs expand atleast 70% more during Pranayama over 30% they do otherwise. This deliberate lungs expansion allows the residual or stale air to come out of the body system and free up the space in the lungs region for fresher air to pass in the body.
Ever wondered why a dog’s shelf life is lot less than that of a tortoise’s?
That’s the scientific benefit of Pranayama. Don’t think the profoundness of Pranayama is only limited to this benefit. Now comes my favourite part. The benefit that Pranayama leaves on one’s sub conscious mind is just phenomenal. The more I do Pranayama, the better I think, the better I sense, the better I reciprocate, the better I tolerate and the better – I get ready for life on a daily basis.
What’s in a conscious breath?
An experience of a lifetime! that is what I have come to believe in over all the years of my practice. Stronger immunity, faster recovery, better balance in the body and mind, fearlessness, openness towards change, clarity of thoughts, clearer self expressions,tactful management of stress levels, time management, improved relationships, sharpened sensory muscle, less or zero climate resultant flu and other physical body ailments, calmer mind. YES! the power to say yes to life in a 360 degree tangent – that is what a conscious breath can transpire!
Types of Pranayama
- Dynamic Pranayama – that are fast and strong to generate more fire or pita in the body. Kapalbhati and Bhastrika fall under this category. Perfect breath engagement tools during winters, these are my power doses every day. A point to note here is that one should consult a teacher / doctor before starting this type of Pranayama based on one’s health conditions.
- Cooling Pranayama – as the type suggests, these kinds of breath movements help to bring down the body temperature, pacify the body mind system. North India gets extreme summers, cooling practices such as Sheetali or Sheetkari are the best suited Pranayama to do. A point to note here is that one should consult a teacher / doctor before starting this type of Pranayama based on one’s health conditions.
- Balancing Pranayama – If you know Yin Yang, right and left side, hot and cold – you definitely will not undermine the power of this Pranayama type. Anuloma Viloma can be practiced throughout the year in any weather. A point to note here is that one should consult a teacher / doctor before starting this type of Pranayama based on one’s health conditions.
There are many more moderate to advance forms of Pranayama that one can learn and adopt as one gradually treads this path.
Often my conversations with people about Pranayama include their dilemmas of how to start, when to do, how much to do, how can one keep up with a daily practice. My quick take on these dilemmas is:
- NOW is the time to practice Pranayama – when we really want to do something, the universe too conspires to give it to us. Read about Pranayama – google it up, pick up books. Better, schedule a time with a yoga facilitator and talk about it. Know the various kinds of breath work, what will work, what won’t work, try them under guidance, figure out the do’s and don’t and make an informed decision of what to practice, how much to practice and when to do it.
- Consistently Practice – If you are someone who likes the momentary fun of concerts over bowing seeds and waiting for flowers to bloom then Pranayama may not be for you. The more regularly you do, the better you will flourish inside out but gradually. Setting realistic goals is the first step towards endearing Pranayama in daily life. 5 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes – every day – 365 days in a year….WOW!!!
- Less is More – many times I observe people quickly wanting to grasp all types of breath movement if they are doing one or two forms correctly. Please avoid that. Pranayama is infinite, every practice can make one discover something deeper, something new in the same type over years. While it is good to deepen the knowledge but if too much knowledge is consumed but not practiced, it will not have any impact at all.
I have made Pranayama my toothbrush and not a bracelet that I wear once in a while and that is quintessentially – Why I Go Back to Pranayama Everyday!
Yoga with V