We've been missing in action this past week because we've been busy breathing.
Stephanie and I took a 7 day intensive Pranayama course at Tattva yoga shala.
Pranayama means "the extension of the life force." Many believe here that a person has a set number of breaths in one lifetime. Therefore, a person who breathes short, fast breaths will live shorter than a person who breathes long, deep, slow breaths. Pranayama is a series of breathing exercises and controls, which helps you extend your breath and life force. It also helps you to clear your mind, control your mind, control the energy within yourself, and purify nadis.
I have done bits and pieces of pranayama in my Sivananda yoga classes, and at other studios... but never had the opportunity to properly study it.
We started out learning abdominal breathing, chest breathing, and then focused on the yogic breath (which uses both abdominal and chest breathing.)
After learning the basic breathing techniques, we moved onto Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. In Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, you use your thumb to close your right nostril, to breath through the left, then switch to close your left nostril with your ring finger, and breath through the right nostril. We learned various techniques, lengthening exercises, how to incorporate ratios, holds, bandha locks, and more.
We also studied Uddiyana Bandha, Kapal Bhati Pranayama, Bhastrika, mudras, cooling pranayamas, and more... Although we couldn't stop from laughing as we practiced the dog breath pose... you kneel down with your hands down like a dog.... and stick your tongue out as far as possible, while making panting like breaths! ;-)
We left class each and every day feeling high on life. It has improved our yoga practice tremendously, as we are now even more aware of our breath and how to incorporate it into our asanas.
But pranayama isn't only for those who do yoga. It is universal... so anyone and everyone can benefit!!!!
Breathing is life.
I highly recommend you to get high on pranayama. ;-)
Great book to get you started if you can't find a course near you: Iyengar's Light on Pranayama http://www.amazon.com/Light-Pranayama-Yogic-Art-Breathing/dp/0824506863