As an adjunct or extension to the Āsana element of a practice,
Prāṇāyāma can be applied to either enhance, stabilise or reduce
the impact of accumulative effects arising from the Āsana element.
The skill is being able to choose which is appropriate for that day,
in relation to where we are coming from in terms of that day’s Āsana,
and our personal choices as to where we are going to need to be after.
In order to access its inner dimensions,
I feel Prāṇāyāma needs to be sustained,
in terms of both frequency, consistency and
competence, rather than it being a sporadic,
or perhaps nominal foray, into its potential as
a primary tool within Bāhya Aṅga Sādhana.
Maybe this is because of insufficient interest
in a long-term exploration into Prāṇāyāma?
On this point, one might offer observations
on the environment and expectations within
which the styling of modern group classes
are framed, seemingly ‘posing’ as if ‘Yoga’?
Or, perhaps because this cursory glance at its
form and function arises from us just looking
for nominal, immediate or even external fruits?
As one might with Āsana, when experiencing
a structural, energetic or psychological issue?
The ‘seed’ of potential for Ujjāyī as an
Ajapā Mantra abides within the ‘shell’ of
a Bhāvana for Ujjāyī as a Dhāraṇā Deśa.
The Deśa also needs to be supported by
utilising a locationally relevant Ādhāra,
as in this instance, the Viśuddhi Ādhāra.
Further considerations can be around the
linking of the sound of Ujjāyī to a semantic
thought-form, by adding Mano Japā Rūpa to
this Ajapā, as some do through using Haṃsa.
However, one could argue that this formation,
shifting from a non-language feeling-based
experience into a language thought-based
experience, can detract from the Bhāvana,
in that a unique Lakṣaṇa of Ujjāyī resides in
the notion of ‘sounding’ without language.
Bhāvana on Ujjāyī as a Dhāraṇā Deśa
What defines the transition between
Cikitsā Krama, Rakṣaṇa Krama and
Śikṣaṇa Krama is the desire to practice
Prāṇāyāma for the sake of Prāṇāyāma,
rather than for purposes such as recovery, or
preventative health, or constitutional support,
or reducing agitation, or promoting relaxation.
Exploring Prāṇāyāma as Prāṇāyāma offers the
potential to propagate a fresh perspective into
the relationship between Prāṇa and Nirodha.
You are presuming when working with Prāṇāyāma
that the student has already put three things in place.
1. A physical possibility in terms of access to a steady seat.
2. An energetic possibility in terms of access to open channels.
3. A psychological possibility in terms of access to concentration.
Prāṇāyāma, in relation to
Haṭha and Rāja Yoga Sādhana,
has differing priorities, albeit
en route towards similar goals.
In Haṭha Yoga the intended outcome
of Prāṇāyāma is Prāṇa Śakti.
In Rāja Yoga the intended outcome
of Prāṇāyāma is Manas Śānti.
Prāṇāyāma is common to both Haṭha and Rāja Sādhana,
whether working with the Prāṇa Śodhana of Haṭha Yoga,
where you were taught to practice it at each
of four transitional points through the day,
or with the Citta Śodhana of Patañjali,
where it is the pivotal Bahya Aṅga,
Prāṇāyāma is seen as the primary means to engage
the Élan Vital, the vital force or creative principle.
One of the joyful experiences that can emerge within our morning practice
is the feeling that arises on arriving at our 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 our on the mat Sādhana that day.
The sense of Sukha is palpable and offers a spaciousness that facilitates
the breath both releasing and entering into the spirit of, as Krishnamacharya
spoke of in terms of Āsana, Prayatna Śaithilya and Ananta Samāpatti.
This feeling in itself can both automatically lengthen and deepen
the flow of the breath without any conscious effort on our part.
A precious gift to start the 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.
When reflecting on the intimacy of the relationship between
Prāṇāyāma and Āsana experientially, we could consider
exploring the practice of Prāṇāyāma and its developmental
conjunction with Āsana, via the following reference points.
Within the age-old coalescence of Prāṇāyāma and Āsana,
Prāṇāyāma can have three potential roles in influencing
the physical, energetic, psychological or emotional
effects arising from the prior practice of Āsana.
In this context the application of Prāṇāyāma can be
from one of three directions. It can be used to either
pacify, or to stabilise, or to intensify, the various
experiences arising from the practice of Āsana.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 21 – Kumbhaka within Prāṇāyāma
These days, it appears that
there is not much place for, or
interest in the use of Kumbhaka
within the practice of Prāṇāyāma.
If used at all it appears to be mainly
Cikitsā or about recovery, or at best about
Rakṣaṇa or constitutional support, rather than
Śikṣaṇa and a personal developmental exploration.
Prāṇāyāma Pointers – 20 – Prāṇāyāma according to Cikitsā Rakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa
Prāṇāyāma, the same as with Āsana and Dhyānam,
was taught according to the core principles within
Cikitsā Krama, Rakṣaṇa Krama and Śikṣaṇa Krama.
Thus we have breathwork practice possibilities
ranging from Cikitsā, using simple ratios to settle
an irregular breathing pattern or pulse fluctuation,
to Rakṣaṇa, with a visible competence and fluidity
within a range of basic techniques and mild ratios,
to Śikṣaṇa and a skill base encompassing all techniques,
and ratios and especially, the application and integration of
Kumbhaka with long holds both after the inhale and the exhale.
Prāṇāyāma Pointers – 19 – Skilful efforts with the Breath in Āsana
The longer term measure of our Prāṇāyāma
potential is determined by our skilful efforts
within all four components of the breath in Āsana.
For example, can we maintain a ratio of 18.104.22.168.
in Parśva Uttānāsana or 22.214.171.124 in Mahāmudrā?