Light on Pranayama

For the past few weeks I have been following BKS Iyengar’s pranayama course in his book Light on Pranayama. I am naughty because I do not have a teacher helping me and also because I haven’t read the book yet… I just skipped straight to the course.

I wanted a clear, easy to follow and in depth course of pranayama exercises. I am on week 6… of 200 weeks. That is almost 4 years so I would say that is quite in depth enough.

First week it was following your natural breath, then adding on extending the exhale and then the inhale in a preparation for ujjayi breath. Week 5 introduces the first non-ujjayi pranayam- viloma which is interrupted breath. So that is either inhaling in 4-5 parts before exhaling in one continuous breath or exhaling in 4-5 parts before inhaling in one go. All of the exercises so far are lying down, I have not progressed to sitting pranayama and will not until week 9.

One thing I’ve found interesting is that lengthening the exhale is substantially more difficult for me than lengthening the inhale. I’ve found with viloma that I can easily inhale in 5 parts of 2 seconds, but with the exhale I can only do 3 parts. I just run out of breath! I found it with the ujjayi too, inhales are long, smooth and deep, exhales short and strained.

It’ll be interesting to see how it develops, and also to see if I stick with it for the full 4 years.

Well what else do I plan to do with my life?


Morning Pranayama

I’m disappointed in myself! I made a promise to myself that I would try to illustrate my posts but just now I realised that this was actually putting me off posting. That’s ridiculous! So I’m posting in black and white, no prettiness. Change comes with patience and dedication. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my simple posts.

I’ve been sick and tired of waking up sad, pretty much every weekday for a few weeks now. So on Tuesday I decided I’d start a morning routine of pranayama, nothing fancy, just sitting and doing a couple of exercises for 5 minutes. Well I’ve stuck to that and it’s pretty amazing stuff. Every day I’ve started off with 3 rounds of kapalabhati doing 50 breaths each round and then I’ve experimented with three different pranayama exercises for the remainder of the 5 minutes. Wednesday I did nadi shodhana, Thursday I did dirga pranayama and today I did sama vritta pranayama.

Wednesday’s had the greatest impact, I started off dull, sad and panicky, terrified of the day ahead. After my pranayama I was brighter, I was talking and moving at a reasonable speed, I didn’t feel scared of the day anymore. Wednesday turned out to be a shithole of a day but we do what we can hey? Thursday and today had less of an impact only because I wasn’t so sad on waking up. I

I’ve had two observations which I never could have known if I hadn’t done my pranayama. The first one is that despite my belief that my nostrils are fully breathable-through at all times and I have perfect, non messy sinuses I have discovered that my right nostril tends to be blocked in the morning and this makes for a very disgusting and moist first round of kapalabhati. It was light showers this morning. Also breathing, especially during the challenging breath lengthening and retaining practices is not always easy first thing in the morning! I wasn’t exactly gasping but it wasn’t the cushy, cosy pranayama I’m used to later in the day.

It’s fantastic this new routine. I don’t know whether it’s the effect of the pranayama itself or the way it creates a sort of gentle easing into the day. It definitely has a different effect than mindfulness meditation does, sometimes it’s a relief to just concentrate on the breath and let the sad feeling go rather than feel the sad feeling. Both have their place obviously but I think I prefer the pranayama mornings. I will continue!