by new columnist Gabrielle Harris, The Suburban Yogini
It’s 5.30 am, I’m up to do some serious breathing.
It feels virtuous and good to be up at this time, just like a real yogi, however I do note that not even the birds seem to be breathing at this hour. But I’m a yogini and I’m on a mission – to find out more about Pranayama and its reported effects.
I read somewhere that you should aim for at least 5 minutes breathing, 10 minutes meditation and 20 minutes asana in your morning practice. Is this controlled breathing for enlightened people sitting in caves? Time to explore.
Pranayama means…. Pra -to bring forth, an-to breath, ayama -to stretch, control or restrain.
The purpose of pranayama is twofold. If we can observe how we breathe we can learn more about our self. If we can change the breath we can change who we are. This is promising.
So here I am 5.31am assessing my yoga laboratory; Mat, block, bolster, strap and yoga attire – pyjamas.
First road block, blocked nostrils. If I had a neti pot I could swish salted water up one nostril and let it pour out the other. I don’t even have a teapot. I make a mental note to purchase even more yoga accessories.
I lie down on the floor.
It’s best to learn pranayama lying down.
I know this because I read a book on pranayama and now I’m an expert.
Once lying down I get my limbs in order.
I carefully insert my femur deep inside my hip socket, flatten my shoulders and spread my sternum.
Have you ever tried spreading your sternum? It’s difficult.
I locate my diaphragm. It is described as having the actions of a piston. I’m not sure what a piston is.
I set about closing off the senses. There are a lot of senses. Too many for my liking and they suddenly they all want to compete to see who can be the loudest.
I try to make my ears like deep inner pockets and let my eyes roll into their sockets.
My tongue seems to be stationary, that’s a miracle. I start to think about the ancient yogis who apparently cut their tongues so they could curl them into the back of their throat and drink the elixir of youth at the base of their brain.
The aim is simple – to count my inhale to 4 beats and exhale to 4/5 beats. How difficult could that be? And then it starts….. The circus music in my head. The vritti (thoughts) of the mind (citta). I do one cycle (good) and then I am cold/hungry /tired and all combinations of uncomfortable that you could imagine including an itch that seems to be coming from one of my nasal hairs.
I get a few more rounds done, it’s 5.34AM, time’s flying, I’m doing really well then I hear it; a snort, not unlike some feral animal and it’s coming from deep within my ear pockets. I’m on a roll now. I unleash my nostrils to another 5 rounds and then call it a day.
Like all practice, it’s just that, practice. Just like our breath which flows in and out of the body, it’s best to ride life on the current of breath following the wax and wane. Some days will be magic in our practice some days not so much.
Today was… magic enough.
If you would like to try pranayama, sign up for the Stressless Workshop with Pranayama, Meditation and Comforting Asana to soothe the soul. April 29, 4 – 6.30pm @ Abundance Studio, Porirua, Wellington
- The Yoga of Breath by Richard Rosen
- The Breath Book by Donna Farhi.