“HEYAM DUHKHAM ANAGATAM: Misery yet to come can be avoided.” Sutra 2.16
In book two of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, aphorism #16 makes a promise. Referring to karmic suffering, the sutra recommends that we direct all our energy toward conquering potential misery. Through the practice of yoga’s Eight Limbs, future pain can be prevented.
For the months of September and October, we focused on the fourth limb of yoga – Pranayama aka breathing exercises – in our Integral Yoga classes. Typically practiced at the end of each IY set, these powerful tonics are known for their healing effects. They are, essentially, preventative medicine.
Now that’s what I call avoiding karmic misery.
Deergha Swaasam, the deep three-part breath, allows the body to oxygenate up to seven times its normal capacity, increasing red blood cells in the body, and consequently strengthening the immune system. Kapaalabhaati, the rapid navel-pumping breath, supports the body’s detoxifying process and burns out mucous in the sinuses. And the alternate nostril breath called Naadi Suddhi balances the hemispheres of the brain and soothes the nervous system.
Holiday stress is approaching and flu season is upon us. So, if you’d like to give these simple immune boosters a try, instructions follow below.
Sure beats waiting in line for a Swine Flu shot!*
Note: Inspirational references for this Bi-Monthly Focus included: “The Breath of Life” by Swami Satchidananda; “Science of Breath” by Swami Rama, Dr. Rudolph Ballentine, and Dr. Alan Hymes; and “Body, Mind, and Sport” by Dr. John Douillard.
* I am not advising anyone to skip a flu shot. I’m just sayin’…
A BIT OF PRANAYAMA A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY!
- Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or on a chair with feet flat on the floor, hands on the knees.
- Elongate the spine to create space for the breath to fill the torso.
- Inhale and exhale through the nose, unless otherwise instructed.
- The lungs are long and thick, like a barrel inside of the torso. Fill up the barrel!
Pump up your immune system! Can be practiced anytime, anywhere.
- Begin with a complete exhale, all the way down to the lower lungs, around the belly. Contract the belly to empty the torso of air.
- Begin your inhale at the lower lungs, allowing the belly to relax outward.
- Continue inhaling into the middle lungs, expanding the rib cage forward, along the sides and into the back.
- Top off your inhale at the collar-bone.
- Exhale, releasing the air from the collar-bone, emptying the rib cage, and then contracting and emptying the belly.
- Continue for three to five minutes then return to normal breathing.
- You might reduce the length as you work it into Naadi Suddhi, described further on.
Cleansing and energizing. Excellent when sleepiness hinders daytime activities. (For example, driving long distances after playing music all night.)
- To find the correct area to activate for this rapid, navel-pumping breath, place the palm of the hand over the belly button, and stretch the thumb upward, toward the lower sternum, where the ribs meet.
- It is important to sit upright, open the heart and isolate movement to the belly.
- To practice before your first round, relax the belly while inhaling just into the lower lungs, then exhale sharply while contracting the belly inward. Some people compare this forceful exhale to a bellows, to the contraction we feel when laughing heartily (try it!) or to blowing out a candle with your nose.
- Your inhale will follow naturally, filling up the belly as it relaxes outward.
- To prepare for your first round, inhale a deep three-part breath, exhale all the way down and out of the belly, inhale just into the belly, then sharply exhale to begin.
- Find your own rhythm and pace. Continue with the sharp exhales and natural inhales for 15-20 cycles. Repeat for three rounds.
- After each round, exhale completely, inhale a deep three-part breath, then let the exhale slowly seep out. Return to normal breathing.
- If the practice becomes challenging during your rounds, focus on the forceful exhale, and let the inhale become more and more relaxed and passive.
- As your practice advances, increase up to five rounds, with up to 100 cycles per round.
- This is a complex practice. Please consult the texts listed above or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Ahhh. Use this soothing breath for balance during stressful times or the change of the seasons.
- Raise the right arm and place the palm in front of the face; make a loose fist; release the thumb, pinky and ring finger into Vishnu Mudra.
- Inhale into both nostrils.
- Plug the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left nostril; keep the thumb where it is and inhale through the left nostril.
- Now plug the left nostril with the fingers and exhale through the right nostril; keep the fingers where they are and inhale through the right nostril.
- Switch and plug the right nostril; exhale/inhale through the left.
- Switch and plug the left nostril; exhale/inhale through the right.
- As you become comfortable with the pattern of exhale/inhale/switch/exhale/inhale/switch/etc, begin to lengthen the breath to deep three-part breathing (into belly, ribs, collar-bone; out of collar-bone, ribs, belly).
- After about three minutes, and after finishing an exhale on the right side, relax the right hand to the knee and return to normal breathing.
Please visit the “Tips-n-Tools” page for an archive of these instructions.