11 October 2016

the best pranayama

                   Image result for lungs and nerves

The best pranayama: the complete breath

If you only ever do one pranayama exercise, the complete breath would be the best. You use it different ways:

  • can start class or your practice with it
  • do it between poses as a recovery
  • or, just do it at the end of class, as the pranayama
  • another great option, is to do it before other pranayamas, also at the end of class

How do we teach it?

There are many ways to do and teach this. I first learnt it, over forty years ago, from Dr Swami Gitananda: 

  • he divided the lungs into left and right lobes. This is how they are, physiologically
  • then into lower, mid and upper sections
  • front, back, and sides
  • in the left lobe area, the heart takes up a fair bit of space, but still he recommended to stick with the two lobes, three sections, front, back, and sides

It is so beneficial for our nervous system


This was for pranayama reasons, and also lung health. There are networks of nerves in the front and in the back of the lungs. And, as we know, nerve impulses carry messages to and from other parts of our physiological being. To build up nerve health is also to build up our nervous system so that we are then able to decrease, without any effort, our over-sensitivity, and in this way we can become calmer and more balanced.


                               Related image

I learnt sequential breathing

  • Dr Swami Gitananda taught the use of hand placement on the front, sides, and back of the chest.
  • leading up to the Complete Breath. The Complete Breath is a deeper and longer breath than what we normally use
  • from here, he introduced hand mudras for the upper, mid and lower lobes, and also for the Complete Breath. 
All of this is very profound. I learnt all of the hand positions and mudras with the breathing practices and diligently practised them. It all taught me the power of deep breathing. How it definitely gives one more physical energy, more mental energy, as well as the transformative power on one's consciousness and  prana levels too.

I later learnt another way

Later, I lived in an ashram, where we were taught to breathe deeply. It was:

  • breathing deep so that one's belly moved, then adding the breath travelling up the lungs. I did not find this so effective, but this was supposedly the official complete breath of the time, so I taught it
  • later adding one hand on the upper abdominals, one hand on the centre of the chest, as the breath will automatically go to under where we place our hands
  • quite a few years later, the same ashram added hand mudras for breathing, using the three lobe areas: lower, mid, upper. 
The thing is, our lungs are not just flat "things", they have depth and width, lots of tubes for the air to move in. They are complex, and I do not feel that, except for Swami Gitananda, and now Dr Ananda, his son (successor, at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry) , that this has been properly understood.

Channelled version

We can get around this, without using hand placements, by how we describe the complete breath. This is my channelled version, and it is very effective. Try it and see:

  • breathe into the base of the lungs, as though they form a tyre inner tube, and you are breathing into this tube, filling it up. Like an expansive front, back, and sides movement. Do this a few times
  • progress to doing this and continuing the breath up through the chest to under the collarbones and shoulders, as though you are breathing up a wide column and filling it up, front, sides, back, middle
  • pull the abdominals in slowly, as the lungs deflate, as we exhale. 
Our lungs don't go up to the shoulders, but, in order to get the breath up into the top peaks of the lungs, this is a good visualisation to use. This technique also leads nicely into adding ujjayi.








No comments:

Post a Comment

You can leave comments here - comments are moderated for the time being.