Copyright 1994 Ceci Henningsson This article may be
freely distributed and copied in its entirety as long as this
copyright notice is attached to it. ===========================================================================
(Updated: October 11th, 1994.) PRANAYAMA IN THREE
This is my experience from learning Yoga breathing
and pranayama using the book "Yoga -- en praktisk vaegledning"
(Yoga -- a practical guide) by Swami Nirvikalpananda Saraswati
for instruction. This article is meant to help you teach yourself
the technique. It is not meant to be authoritative with regards
to definitions or Yoga theory. Pranayama is a breathing practice
in Yoga. It is particularly useful in situations where you feel
threatened, because it helps you retain your calm. Pranayama
is often recommended to the beginning occultist. Among authors
who recommend it are Robert Anton Wilson and Aleister Crowley.
Preparation ^^^^^^^^^^^ Wear loose-fitting clothes or no clothes
at all. Make sure your nose is clear, so you can breathe freely.
If you have a cold, you will have to wait till you are recovered.
Not only is it impossible to do pranayama when you cannot breathe
through your nose but if you have a sore throat the first deep
breath will send you into a violent cough attack. Step One ^^^^^^^^
The purpose of the first step is to learn to distinguish between
belly breathing and chest breathing. Lie on your back on a comfortable
flat surface. Relax and start following your breath. Put one
hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Relax. Belly
breathing: When you inhale, the hand on your belly rises, while
the hand on your chest remains still. As you exhale, the hand
on your belly goes down again, whereas the hand on your chest
remains still. Repeat this for 5-10 breaths. Chest breathing:
When you inhale, the hand on your chest rises, while the hand
on your belly remains still. As you exhale, the hand on your
chest goes down again, whereas the hand on your belly remains
still. Repeat this for 5-10 breaths. Alternate between belly
and chest breathing for 5-10 minutes. Repeat every day. It is
_vital_ that you master this step before going on to step 2.
Step two ^^^^^^^^ Purpose of step two is to combine belly and
chest breathing in one breath. This is called Yoga breathing.
Lie on a comfortable flat surface. Relax and follow your breath.
Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Relax.
Yoga breathing: Start inhaling with belly breathing. When you
feel that you cannot inhale any more this way, go over to chest
breathing until the chest part of your lungs are full. Then you
exhale using chest breathing first and then belly breathing until
you have emptied your lungs completely. Breathe very slowly.
If you feel dizzy, you are breathing too fast. If you feel out
of breath, you are breathing too slowly. Follow your body's signals.
If you have problems distinguishing between belly and chest breathing,
go back to step one again. Step three ^^^^^^^^^^ Sit or stand
with your spine upright. Use Yoga breathing and follow a set
pattern. To do this you need to somehow count the rythm. I use
ordinary counting, but I imagine that you might aswell use words
instead. The rythm 4-2-2 works very well for me. That means I
count to 4 while inhaling, hold my breath while counting 1 and
2, and exhale on 3 and 4. I have also seen a 4-4-4-4 rythm recommended
and now find it more efficient. It means adding an extra element,
namely holding your breath between exhalation and inhalation.
Be careful not to hold your breath for too long. Again, listen
to your body's needs. Yoga breathing should be a more or less
effortless process, so your breath should not be louder than
usual. I had problems with starting the exhalation inaudibly.
If you experience this too, there is a trick to it: you inhale
just a wee bit before exhaling. You are supposed to be able to
use pranayama in virtually any situation, so to practise making
it an "invisible" process is definitely worthwhile.
That way you can use it, for instance when you walk up to the
platform before making a speech or when listening to someone
in an argument. I also had problems with my diaphragm going rigid.
When this happens I can make it relax through softly patting
on the diaphragm. The stimulation seems to confuse the muscles
on the inside into relaxing. It did not happen any more when
I got more used to the practice. Practice ^^^^^^^^ It is a good
idea to practise step one for a week, then combine step one and
step two for one week, and then try all three steps in your daily
session during the third week. This way you repeat the first
basic steps every time. I followed this advice and feel that
I have learnt the basics quite well. I still feel the need to
practise distinguishing between belly and chest breathing from
time to time. Pranayama works better if you practise it regularly.
Do not do it all the time, but a few times a day will not hurt,
quite on the contrary. My Yoga book recommends doing pranayama
before meditation, but after asanas.