Amongst the Antarāya that relegate Prāṇāyāma to the wish list……

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Amongst the Antarāya that
relegate Prāṇāyāma to the wish list
is the choice of a long relaxation as
a substitute ending to Āsana practice.

Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma……


I was taught by Desikachar that we need to at least have some sort of working relationship with an Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma into our practice Sādhana.

Also in the approach of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar to Yoga practice this idea is even more relevant as important information, that guides our initial and subsequent steps into Prāṇāyāma, is gleaned from certain factors only apparent from observation of how our respiratory system performs during Āsana practice.

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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

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.

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

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

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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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part One

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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20 Minute Prāṇāyāma Practice

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20 Minute Prāṇāyāma Practice focused on Pūraka without Kumbhaka

 

Ascent:
Anuloma Ujjāyī Technique with 8.0.16.0. Ratio/Length for 8 Breaths

Crown:
Pratiloma Ujjāyī Technique with 16.0.16.0. Ratio/Length for 16 Breaths

Descent:
Anuloma Ujjāyī Technique with 8.0.12.0. Ratio/Length for 8 Breaths

Closing:
Ujjāyī Technique with 4.0.4.0. Ratio/Length for 4 Breaths

Completion:
Drop the breath and remain with the experience for 5 minutes

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The maturation of the fruits of Prāṇāyāma takes many years……


One aspect of Yoga Sādhana is that it is ultimately about a maturing of our relationship with all aspects of on the mat Yoga practice, rather than just that of our Āsana practice. This is especially important as these various aspects sit within a hierarchical spiral with one level being the foundation, technical reference point, verification and ladder for the next.

We only have to study and reflect on the Yoga Sūtra to appreciate this relationship dynamic. Yet it increasingly appears that for many today the word ‘advancing’ in terms of on the mat practice means tackling increasingly complex Āsana or Āsana choreographies to the neglect or even detriment of what are seen as the levels that Āsana aims to prepare us to engage in.

Krishnamacharya understood this relationship dynamic and offered many teachings, tools and practices to help link the student to and in their upward ascent of the practice spiral. It will be a misunderstanding and misrepresentation if he is remembered only as the ‘father’ of modern Āsana.

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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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