Friday, June 20, 2003

Each day a few more people decide to sleep in and skip pranayama. We had a total of 15 brave souls in the circle today, about half regulars and half teacher trainees. Tim has gradually increased the degree of difficulty each day. Next week, we should get back to something a little closer to what he does the rest of the year. I'm gonna miss those shorter retentions. It's really not the retentions that do it though. Not for me anyway. It's the duration of the breathing. I think I need a new diaphragm. Mine doesn't do what I want it to do. I need it to maintain a slow steady intake of air for 30 seconds. Instead, it jumps and skips. Sometimes, it feels like I get two thirds full in the first 5 to 10 seconds. I then have to spend the rest of the inhalation trying to draw out my breath while nearly at full capacity. I know I'm not alone in this respect. You can see it in the faces and postures of others in the circle from time to time. They're lifting their whole upper body, their neck and head, even their eyebrows trying to make more room to keep inhaling. Other times, it feels like I'm using the wrong muscle action or something because I don't feel like I'm full but I'm not getting the air moving in like it should be. I think in the practice yesterday and today, we crossed the threshold where I can competently do the practice. I'm starting to take more breaths now. I may have to get a home sequence that I can try and build from. Somewhere I read that you should find a duration of retention that you can comfortably do. You keep it at that level for at least 10 practices before extending for another second. I know there's a relationship of the duration of the inhale retention to the exhale retention. My recollection is that the inhale retention lasts half again as long as the exhale retention, a 3 to 2 ration, I.e. if the exhale retention lasts 6 seconds the inhale retention should last 9 seconds. I know that in the alternate nostril breathing, the length of the inhalation, the exhalation and of the retentions on each side of the breath are all supposed to be the same duration. It's harder to determine the correct duration of the inhale and exhale during the ujjayi breathing with retentions (rechaka and puraka kumbhaka) . Tim addressed this question at a workshop I went to. He said you should keep the duration of the breaths to a point where you can make your breath after a retention in a "non-grasping" fashion. Meaning you're not pulling at the breath like you would after swimming the length of the pool twice underwater. There should be a modicum of control there. That's great to aim for. But right now, I'm frequently grasping with that inhale. Sometimes I'm almost gasping. Time to dig up that copy of "Light on Pranayama" by Iyengar that I never read.

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