For the last several months I have been working on a daily asana practice and have recently added prānāyāma to my daily routine, which I must admit I view as an elusive and frankly mystical practice. This integration has involved waking up 30 minutes earlier then I would have pre-prānāyāma, lying down for ujjāyī (a type of prānāyāma where the lungs are expanded and the chest is puffed out) and then sitting to perform jālandhara bandha (a position of the neck that locks your chin down towards your raised chest). All the while breathing with awareness. Within this simple practice, as you may know, lies many challenges. To begin with you are supposed to stay awake. When I am able to overcome that first, and honestly rather large hurdle, I then sometimes find my mind focusing on the chill of the morning air on my toes, or the questioning and then subsequent adjusting of the height of my sternum bone. Even perhaps what I’m going to eat for breakfast. Sometimes I succeed in focusing my thoughts and senses but find my breath only wants to expand into isolated parts of my rib cage, or flutters in its rhythm.
But I remain each morning. Silently breathing. In. Out. In. Out.
In Light on Prānāyāma Mr. Iyengar says that “inhalation is the act of receiving the primeval energy in the form of the breath, and retention is when the breath is held in order to savour that energy. In exhalation all thoughts and emotions are emptied with breath: then, while the lungs are empty, one surrenders the individual energy, ‘I’, to the primeval energy, the Atma.” [LoP page 10; #16]. It is with this concept, this experience, that my meager unrefined practice shifts in that dark cool dawn from the blind groping of hope to an unmistakable sense of light. This small amount of successful breath awareness has opened me to an energy and joy that ripples throughout my day.
I may not be achieving what I set out to do just yet; I doubt my postures, I know nothing of Digital technique (placing your fingers on the nose to further control the breath), nor am I even able to retain a steady breath (which I’m pretty sure most grade school swimmers can do) but I am able to experience prānāyāma as the powerfully beneficial practice that it is.