Counted 13 in the first minute of observation while approaching the task of writing this post and 12 in the second test. Turns out this is good news. Consider Maehle's first chapter of his great book on Pranayama:
"Reducing the normal respiratory rate from 15 or 16 breaths per minute down to 10 will extend the lifespan to 100 years"100 years! and all it takes is to go down to 10 per minute? Sounds easy enough, I wonder if coming down from the 12.5 average of my experiment would be too hard?
A little context:
This is a series I am calling Claudia's Book Club where I chose extraordinary books on yoga and go over highlights of it, things that left me wondering, aha! moments, questions, etc.
I hope you join me in reading as I believe Maehle's book to be very timely and extraordinary!
Have you read the book yet?
JOIN ME IN READING- Here is a link to the book in Amazon!
In chapter one, page 29 he is adamant about two things that, as I understand, set up the tone for the book, they are:
1) Pranayama is the method that is central to yoga (not asana)
I get the funniest feelings when people compare themselves to others in the yogic path by how long you have been practicing asana or with whom... It is NOT about the asana, it is actually more about the practices that we cannot see in public or cannot be distinguished to the naked eye.
It is, for example, about how kind we are to others (which would include not trying to put others down for starters) and how we learn to breathe better, slower, noticing our emotions yet not reacting, learning to be with what is. How we practice pranayama.
Gregor is on a quest to revive the science of pranayama in modern yoga circles. This is why I find the message so timely
2) Pranayama cannot be undertaken without proper grounding in asana practice
But, he says:
"...to practice asana without going on to pranayama is like continuing to plough a field without ever sowing the seed, or like washing a garment over and over again without ever wearing it"In my book review, this is the type of suggestion I used to come up with the concept of a "slap in the wrist". It fells like it, or at least it felt like it to me, because I did not have a daily pranayama practice.
I like how the book invites us to go further than asana, to get un-stuck, to pay attention to the breath. To move on and explore the fourth limb of yoga, to find a teacher already!
Then on the importance of pranayama for our times I was taken by the concept that:
Meditation works only for the "exception"
"Some gurus promised that a daily meditation would lead to success within 2 years or less. Now some 40 years later we can declare such successes remain the exception"Ramana Maharshi, the enlightened sage of last century was known for instructing people who came to him to just ask "Who Am I"? and not answer with the mind.
Nisagargadatta is one such person for whom this technique worked. He did not go to Maharshi but rather to another teacher who instructed him in the same manner.
Nisagargadatta as opposed to many others, dedicated himself with every waking hour of the day to ponder on the question and in 3 years (he says) his understanding changed, his fear of death vanished, he realized he was not here and he had never been, there was no "I". He reached the state of yoga.
Is Pranayama Breath Extension? Breath Control? Or Both?
The title of chapter one is Definition and Purpose of Pranayama, and pages 14 to 22 are all about how pranayama is used in the ancient texts, Patanjali, the Gita, Krishnamacharya Vajnavalkya, Manu, as well as modern testimonies. Some highlights for me include:
Prana means breath or life force, and Ayama means extension. Therefore pranayama means extension of life force. I guess we all knew that, but then there is light on a controversial topic:
Ramana Maharshi is quoted here (it is the only time he appears -page 14-), as having used the term prana rodha which means control of prana. Although I looked up a Sanskrit translation of the word and it came up with a long list of meanings.
Many people go to great lengths to say that pranayama is NOT controlling the breath, but clearly it is both, it is about extension and it is about control. After all that is what happens when we sit to a pre-determined round of pre-determined count of inhales, retention and exhalations.
I won't feel so intimidated anymore about holding pranayama as being the 4th limb of yoga that works of BOTH: EXTENSION AND CONTROL of the breath. I got non other than Maharshi to quote! and, also, common sense.
A gem of the book is his covering on how the Gita interprets pranayama.
Can Pranayama be Learned Without a Teacher?
From my own experience, I would say that both asana and pranayama were like day and night when I tried to learn from books as opposed to when I had a teacher.
|O P Tiwari - A current world authority on pranayama|
Sharath Jois said in Greenwich CT on his last visit that it is OK to practice basic breathing before one is very established in asana, simple practices like alternate nostril breathing without retention.
However, the more advanced practices, retentions on the inhale or after the exhale, increasing the counts, proper utilization of internal locks (bandhas), all very much benefit from someone who has done it before.
Gregor points out how Patanjali:
"...describes the effect [my bold] of correct pranayama practice but not how to practice the actual techniques [also my bold]. This was to be done by a real life teacher and more than one method was accepted."Those are the main highlights of chapter one for me. What about YOU? Have you read chapter one? What speaks to you? What is a highlight? Tell us!
Here is a link to the book in Amazon. Join me in reading and comment your thoughts!
Here is my full book review of Maehle's book: Pranayama Breath of Yoga
Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise: Great to Calm the Mind
CLAUDIA'S BOOK CLUB:
"PRANAYAMA THE BREATH OF YOGA"
Chapter Ten: The Breathing Exercise That Gets Rid Of Our Fears
Chapter Eleven: How Not To Be An Idiod In Pranayama. Nerve Purification
Chapter Twelve: Bhastrika Pranayama - Life Force on Steroids
Chapter Thirteen: What The World Needs Now Is More Left Nostril Breathing
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