5# Controlling the breath - Pranayama
''Breathing control gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers.'' - Chuang Tzu
Before we go into this topic let's understand one important thing: your breath has power - your breath affects your nervous system profoundly and therefore your breath is to be respected.
What is the nervous system?
Let my teacher and Yoga Master Aadil Palkhivala tell you:
''The nervous system is our communicator with Spirit, our connection with the inner worlds, a gateway between the physical and spiritual. The nervous system is a transmitter as well as a receiver, an electrical system emitting powerful electromagnetic waves that connect and harmonise all aspects of our being. An agitated nervous system fails to receive the Spirits guidance, just as a warped antenna cannot receive television signals properly.
The nervous system feels joy and sorrow, initiates laughter and tears. However when under stress it fumbles through its job, and so do we. In our yoga practice and in life, we must protect our nervous system and ensure that it lives in a state of equanimity.''
- From his book Fire of Love
''Slow deep breathing is the nervous systems best friend. Rapid breathing increases the heartbeat and stimulates the nervous system, thrusting it into the sympathetic mode, the fear response of ''fight or flight''. Holding the breath creates even more nervous tension and can increase blood pressure dramatically, thwarting any prospect of peace.
On the other hand lengthening and deepening each breath slows down the heartbeat and calms the nerves, inviting peace.''
- Aadil Palkhivala
With this understanding - this weeks tip is a breath control excercise (= Pranayama).
Make sure your surroundings are peaceful and that you have sufficient time and silence to do this exercise. Avoid doing this when disturbed by loud sounds or when in a hurry.
So peacefully, with time (a good moment is before going to bed):
Lye down into the Supine Pranayama position that you learned in class (see image) and start:
1. Observe your breath as it flows in and out freely.
2. Gently begin to lengthen your exhalation. Lengthen the exhalations as much as you comfortably can, do not use force. Work towards the exhalation being double as long as the inhalation.
3. Imagine a ball of white Light in front of your face. With every exhalation release any tensions, worries, pains, anger or other burdens in to the white Light. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
4. Then release this Pranayama and return to normal breathing.
5. Rest and relax in Shavasana after this exercise. Feel the wonderful effect on your mind and body.
This helps to release built up tensions in the body, releases stress from the nerves and creates a peaceful and calm mind. I recommend doing it whenever you feel stress building up.
I do this every week before going to bed when I feel I am losing my inner calm. I sleep peacefully every time after this pranayama!