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  • Writer's pictureAYL

Part I. To release the creative urge

This article will be divided into a first and a second part. The subject is how the pranayama and asana practices complement each other.

In the last blog post, we talked about:

“…if you put all your attention while respecting the well-directed breath then you will have more presence and this presence will bring you into awareness of the reality of the moment, this is the most difficult aspect of the practice, but when you taste it and you see what is in reality, you can't help but deal with it, because you see all your perverted patterns, it is no longer possible to go back, the practice will become a mirror of yourself, and if you are sincere then you have the possibility to change.”

So you may ask: "How do I create evenness in my breathing throughout the Asana practice? "How can I achieve complete breaths in every movement? "What is the feeling of "quality breathing”?

Before explaining the theory of breathing, I would like to tell three true stories.

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Story 1

For a year after Mark Darby and Joanne Darby went to India to learn Kriya Yoga (the pranayama technique)from Shree Shailendra Sharma, they continued to practice pranayama for one hour every morning.

One day their son, Shankara Darby, asked, "You look different, you' re glowing. What have you done?"

The Darby's replied, "We didn't do anything special. If there is one thing we have done, it's practiced the pranayama every morning for a year.

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Story 2

In 2016, Darby's family came to Beijing, China to teach a 100-hour (two-week) yoga teacher training and I interpreted. The two-week intensive yoga class consisted of a 45-minute session on pranayama first thing in the morning, and Darby encouraged the class attendees to keep practicing pranayama after the class.

The following year, in 2017, we didn't ask who kept up with the pranayama, but we observed the Mysore class participants practicing the asanas and we could probably guess who had been practicing the pranayama at home for a year.

Darby asked the two students to do the sun salutations for the whole class to watch, and then asked the other students, "What do you see? The students replied, "Every detail of every movement is synchronized with every second of breathing. The movements flow smoothly without rushing.”

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Story 3

A conversation between friends.

Q: "I can see that you are practicing the asanas smoothly, your face is relaxed, and the overall feeling is effortless. What is your breathing control technique?"

A: "I don't think about "controlling" my breathing. I simply listen to the breath, non-stop. Maybe it's because I practice pranayama every morning before asana and at night before I go to bed, so naturally I follow the breath during the process of asana.

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To establish a firm foundation, there are two elements, or logics, that can be found in the three stories: (1) continuously; and (2) over a long time period.

This is also consistent with the 13 and 14 verses of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra:

Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 13

tatra sthitau yatno ‘bhyāsaḥ ||13||

Practice is the repeated or constant attempt to stay with the object.

Commentary by Srivatsa Ramaswami:

The object could be one of the 24 tattvas. It could be something like the breath, or a mantra (which is not exactly under 24 tattvas, but is still under prakṛti).

Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 14

sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkārādarā-sevito dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ ||14||

Practice done for a long time without interruption then becomes firmly established in the mind.

Commentary by T Krishnamacharya:

Abhyāsa, when performed with reverence, without interruption, over a long period of time, will result in a healthy body, acute senses and extraordinary alertness. This kind of Abhyāsa is a solid foundation that nothing can disturb.

During Pranayama, we learn to look inward to observe the subtle flow of the breath.

In pranayama we focus our attention on the breath. In the practice of pranayama it is therefore very important to keep an alert mind, for the processes that are being observed are very subtle. There is no visible movement of the body as in asana practice we must acutely sense and feel the movement of the breath within. The only dynamic process is breathing.

The goal of pranayama is not to bring the inhalation and exhalation into a certain relationship with each other, or to establish a particular length of breath. If exercises such as these help us concentrate on our pranayama, that is wonderful. But the true aim of the various techniques and breath ratios of breathing in pranayama is first and foremost to give us many different possibilities for following the breath. When we follow the breath, the mind will be drawn into the activities of the breath. In this way pranayama prepares us for the stillness of meditation.

Of course, our state of mind does not alter with every in-breath and out-breath; change occurs over a long period of time. If we are practicing pranayama and also notice a change of mind, the changes of mind can also be observed primarily in our relationships with other people, the relationships are the real test of whether we actually understand ourselves better.

Learning to learn.

One has to set about learning to learn as is befitting for the most important work in human life, that is, with serenity but without solemnity, with patient objectivity and without compulsive seriousness. Clenching the fists, tensing the eyebrows, tightening the jaw are expressions of impotent effort. Learning is not the training of willpower but the ability to direct clear motivations as a result of self-knowledge.

[ Conclusion ]

To release the creative urge. We must discover what we practice.

If we observe well the practice of the asanas is very interesting to maintain in form, especially the physical body, as long as it is done properly, and it is fine, because the asanas are basically made for that, but also to prepare the spirit to something more subtle, But it's still limited, even if it's therapeutic, at some point, even if you practice asanas until the end of your life, of course if the body allows it, it's very good because it's the body that's going to take you to the end of the path of this human experience. If we arrive at a mature age, there will be ineluctable stages of transformation, from childhood to old age, even if the spirit has all its vigor, the physical body no longer allows you to do the same things at different ages. And to come back to the limitation of the asana practice, then let's use it for what it is, but if you haven't brought up the idea that one day there will be physical limitations what are you going to do, there is always something to do and there will always be room for an adapted postural practice, but it will have been interesting to have progressively developed more subtle steps like pranayama and this attention, this presence in the practice that will also be put in place in the daily life. The more you bring the right tools and the right direction in the practice the more you will have this possibility to explore more deeply. The asanas are just the tip of the iceberg, all the subtlety, the most interesting stuff is behind the surface. Maintaining good health comes from within. The practice of yoga is above all the opening of the consciousness.

To be continued Part II.

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References :

The Heart of Yoga. T.K.V. Desikachar.

The Potent Self. Moshe Feldenakrais.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: Based on the teaching of Srivatsa Ramaswami


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