What if the 'secret of yoga' is the breath...., and we're rushing it?
Generally I tend to practice a half Ashtanga Primary series with particular attention given to around tne key asana, staying in these asana longer, exploring kumbhaka where appropriate.
I've been exploring longer inhalations, exhalations and kumbhaka with Simon Borg-Olivier's Introduction to breath control (pranayama), I suspected I might have been deceiving myself with the inhalation, was it a constant inhalation or did I keep stopping and starting, so hard to hear/tell. Here then I have my phone's microphone held just below my nose and it is indeed constant. It could be steadier, you can tell I think where I shift the mental focus of the inhalation from perineum to the frount then back of my abdomen and so on up to the chest, shoulders and even my neck. Lengthening the inhalation to a minute and even ninety seconds is to aim at more steadiness with a thirty second inhalation and exhalation Sama vritti, which feels sufficient.
The trick, if there is one is remaining relaxed, which is kind of the point of Pranayama, steadying the breath to steady the emotions.
Note: Pattabhi Jois mentioned twenty second inhalations and twenty second exhalations in asana as an ideal but unfortunately we wouldn't have time for the ironing.
Note: On the course Simon works on 30 seconds duration for the different exercises emphasising the different stages of the breath with each breath being 45 seconds. So a 30 second inhalation followed by a five second kumbhaka and ten second exhalation before the next inhalation, six rounds in each exercise.
I've been practicing six rounds of samavritti, 30 second inhalation/30 second exhalation. On twists Krishnamacharya talks of samavritti rather than kumbhaka's
My own interest here is not so much pranayama but increasing the length and steadiness of the appropriate stage of the breath for a given asana. So where Krishnamacharya might indicate an exhalation focus in one asana or inhalation kumbhaka in a different asana I'm looking to develop my comfort and steadiness while lengthening a little that particular stage of the breath.
T. Krishnamacharya - Yogasanagalu (1941)
Above- see this blog post for a transcript of the above interview I conducted with Simon a couple of years back. http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/05/interview-with-simon-borg-olivier.html
Inhalation emphasis breathing: make a really long slow inhale and then a short natural breath out.
Inhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then hold your breath in as long as you comfortably can, and then a short natural breath out.
Exhalation emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then breathe out as slowly as possible for as long as it is comfortably possible.
Exhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in over 3-5 seconds, then a short full breath out about the same length, and then hold your breath out as long as you comfortably can.
KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 2 – 5 minutes silent meditation (invisible, inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body)
PURAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths long inhalation (up to 40 seconds inhale: up to 5 seconds exhale)
ANTARA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths inhalation retention (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 35 seconds inhale retention: up to 5 seconds exhale)
RECAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths long exhalation (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 40 seconds exhale)
BHAYA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths exhalation retention (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 5 seconds exhale: up to35 seconds exhale retention)
KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 5 – 30 minutes silent meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body, which eventually leads to the feeling of contentment and loving-kindness)
SAVASANA: 5 – 10 minutes supine relaxation
1. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 4 minutes meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body)
2. PURAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) long inhalation (55 seconds inhale: 5 seconds exhale)
3. ANTARA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) inhalation retention (5 seconds inhale: 50 seconds inhale retention: 5 seconds exhale)
4. RECAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) long exhalation (5 seconds inhale: 55 seconds exhale)
5. BHAYA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) exhalation retention (5 seconds inhale: 5 seconds exhale: 50 seconds exhale retention)
6a. SAMA VRTTI UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths long inhalation and long exhalation (30 seconds inhale: 30 seconds exhale)
6b. VISAMA VRTTI UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths)1:4:2:1 breathing (7.5 seconds inhale: 30 seconds inhale retention: 15 seconds exhale: 7.5 seconds exhale retention)
7a. NADI SODHANA PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths) alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana pranayama) (30 seconds inhale left nostril: 30 seconds exhale right nostril: 30 seconds inhale right nostril: 30 seconds exhale left nostril)
7b. SURYA BHEDHANA PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths) visualised alternate nostril breathing (citta surya bhedana pranayama)
8. SHAKTI CALANI PRANAYAMA: 8 minutes (2 cycles of 4 minutes each cycle) of fast then slow breathing (30 seconds (10 breaths) of ‘rolling up’ breathing: 30 seconds of ‘rolling down’ breathing: 60 seconds exhale
9. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 4 – 40 minutes meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body) (alway good to finish as you began and then compare the feeling)
NOTE: this is a 'proficient' approach to practice, for beginners Simon always recommends natural breathing when practicing asana until some proficiency has been gained in the practice of asana as well as perhaps some exploration of pranayama away from the mat.
A first look at integrating Simon Borg-Olivier's approach to breath control, employing his led instruction while practicing Krishnamacharya's asana instruction.
see below for an approach to each asana and mudra
Details of Simon Borg-Olivier's Intro to breath control (pranayama) course