September 4, 2011

Pranayama Deep Breathing

Pranayama warms your body up from the inside to prepare you for the heat and the next 90 minutes.  This was a very difficult pose for me when I first started - 6 counts to inhale and 6 to exhale can feel nearly impossible when you first start.  All I can say here is try.  If you can only inhale 4 counts that's OK.  You will get stronger, your lungs will expand.  Just try.

Now, the "snoring sensation" that the instructors tell us to do is difficult.  For 6 months I was simply inhaling loudly through my nose.  Then I took a private lesson with Ida and in 10 minutes it made so much sense.  Essentially you are drawing the air in through the back of your throat instead of just through your nose.  If you have trouble with this, I encourage you to ask your instructors.  Ask a few different ones until you get it.

What I find just as important in Pranayama as the breathing is the foundation of your body.  You are standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana) before you begin the breath.  I find it very useful to plant my feet firmly side by side on the floor and distribute my weight evenly through the inside and outside of my heels and the balls of the big toe side of the foot as well as the little toe side.  Otherwise known as the four corners of the feet.  Contract your thighs, pull your knee caps up and make your legs strong.  Your legs and your feet are there to support you through the entire 90 minutes, so find them, engage them, become aware of them before you begin your practice.  Flex your glutes and push your hips just a little forward so you don't have a pronounced curve in your lower spine.  Extend your spine up - from you cocyx to the top of your head.  Lift up.  Stand proud.  Start strong.

When I clasp my hands and interlock my fingers, I like to interlock them with my dominant hand on top first and then during second set, I switch my grip.  I have switched my grip so often that I no longer know which is my dominant side.

Remember to suck that belly in!  This will increase your lung capacity.  And keep your eyes open the entire time or you will get dizzy.  Check in with your foundation every so often.  I like to do this because sometimes my feet start to drift apart or my thighs release.  Keep that strength in the lower half of your body - it will help you during the rest of your practice.

It took Mr. Iyengar 20 years before he could master the art of Pranayama (1), so don't get discouraged.  Look at him now.


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