Here’s my AlphabeThursday post for the letter “P”.
Pranayama, or breathing, practice is a key element of the Kriya tradition in yoga. Since my teacher was a disciple of Goswami Kriyananda, of the Kriya lineage (that of Paramahansa Yogananda), he taught us a number of breathing practices during hatha classes. I loved it from the beginning and took a pranayama class at the Temple of Kriya Yoga to learn more.
For many years my main practice was alternate nostril breathing, which I used before every meditation as a means to calm my highly stressed and tension-filled body enough to meditate. I used some of the others and along the way added holotropic breathing and the Eight Key Breaths to the repertoire.
Eventually my issues with kundalini led to my acupuncturist banning me from all breathing practice. For some years, although I experimented periodically, I stayed away from pranayama. Eventually I realized I could again practice without having the room spin and/or an inner ear imbalance. By that time a lot of the tight muscles had released and the many years of chronic fatigue left me more concerned about energy.
I began doing the Eight Key Breaths daily and watching them build my energy, not only in terms of having more chi but I could follow the expanded energy as it pushed on taut muscles and helped to create more opening. I’ve since added some kundalini yoga practices that use breath of fire extensively and that has added to growing energy and the faster break-down of the final vestiges of my major muscle issues.
Prana is the vital force energy that moves through the body with the breath. Every breathing practice assists the vital flow of prana. Because breathing practices cause you to inhale and exhale completely and in an even pattern they have a huge impact on stress. A great deal of tension in the body relates to uneven and shallow breathing habits and every breathing practice I’ve ever done has created calm.
You can do different kinds of pranayama to create different outcomes beyond calm. Breath of fire is energizing. Bee breath can help you sleep. Alternate nostril breathing causes you to breathe equally through both nostrils which helps create union, so it’s not only calming but assists in meditation. There are many more.
It’s free and you can accomplish so much self healing just by working with your breath. Lots of Americans have patterns of very shallow breathing, most are taught to suck the stomach in on inhalation and let it out on exhalation which is the opposite of natural, healthy breathing. Lots of people also have patterns of inhaling and holding the breath a few beats before letting it go. Breathing is so unconscious for most of us that we aren’t even aware of those patterns. It was a very astute eye doctor (who worked with the eyes as part of an emotional mapping process) who pointed out to me that I continually held my breath. Check into your own breathing habits. Give yourself the gift of pranayama. You’ll be surprised how many other things become better.