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.
Prāṇāyāma is common to both Haṭha and Rāja Sādhana,
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 188.8.131.52.
in Parśva Uttānāsana or 184.108.40.206 in Mahāmudrā?
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 16 – Relationship of Sound and Sensation in Ujjāyī
In the beginning, Ujjāyī is experienced more as a sound.
As we refine its relationship with the breath, through
increasing the Length and deepening the Subtlety,
Ujjāyī is felt more as a sensation within the body
and less as a sound and vibration in the throat.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 15 – Relationship between the nostrils and the chest in Nāḍī Śodhana
When using Mṛgi Mudrā in Nāḍī Śodhana
the control should not be at the nose.
The fingers are a guide more than a valve.
Thus you should not bend the nose.
The main control for the Inhale and for
the Exhale is in the chest not the fingers.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 14 – Relationship between Ratio & Technique
When choosing techniques for control, whether
it’s Lips, Tongue, Throat, Nostril or Nostrils,
there needs to be a relationship between the
ratio you use and the technique you choose.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 13 – Relationship of Kapālabhāti and Bhastrikā
Bhastrikā is Kapālabhāti plus finger control with Mṛgi Mudrā.
There are several practice combinations around Bhastrikā:
1. Inhale Left Nostril, Exhale Left Nostril continuously
2. Inhale Right Nostril, Exhale Right Nostril continuously
3. Inhale Left Nostril, Exhale Right Nostril continuously
4. Inhale Right Nostril, Exhale Left Nostril continuously
5. Inhale Left Nostril, Exhale Right Nostril and
Inhale Right Nostril, Exhale Left Nostril continuously
However, the student needs to be proficient in the
practice of Kapālabhāti before introducing Bhastrikā.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 12 – Bhāvana for the fingers within Mṛgi Mudrā in Nāḍī Śodhana
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 8 – Mṛgi Mudrā and nostril flow……
When using Mṛgi Mudrā to control the nostril flow in Prāṇāyāma,
the ring finger and thumb remain as if glued onto the nostrils,
with one nostril being fully closed and one nostril partially closed,
with adjustments to the pressure according to technique and ratio.
Even when using Ujjāyī within techniques such as Anuloma Ujjāyī,
the finger and thumb remain as if sealed on the sides of the nostrils.
Externally it’s as if there is nothing to observe in terms of the body.
Internally there is a vibrant flow within the dynamics of the breath.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 7 – Antar Kumbhaka and lengthening the breath……
When using the Antar Kumbhaka to lengthen the breath,
always factor in its effect on the length of the exhale.
It should be able to stay the same length and quality.
If it is affected, change the length of the Kumbhaka,
rather than compromising the flow of the breath.
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 6 – Bhāvana for refining Nāḍī Śodhana
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 5 – Bhāvana for exploring Kumbhaka
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 4 – Four Practice Quadrants and the Mind
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 3 – Pratiloma Ujjāyī is a……
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 2 – Cakra Bhāvana for the Breath in Prāṇāyāma
- Pūraka – Lifting from the Viśuddhi Cakra
- Antar Kumbhaka – Expanding from the Anahāta Cakra
- Recaka – Contracting from the Svādhiṣṭhāna Cakra
- Bāhya Kumbhaka – Sustaining from the Mūlādhāra Cakra