I haven't had much to say these last few days. My practice so far this week has been limited to pranayama each morning. I guess it's a good thing to start each day fully humbled. I've been hoping that going regularly would lead to the kind of gradual improvement that usually occurs in the asana practice. I have gotten better in some aspects. Much like in asana practice, though, there are plenty of backsliding days too. Today was one. In previous days, I just did the best that I could and took the occasional extra breath along the way as I felt I needed to. The number of breaths I needed was less than when I first started doing it but still more than I was happy with. In thinking about how to progress, I decided that at some point, I was going to have to get thru each segment with out taking any extra breaths. Today, I decided to try the approach of working at going as far as possible with no extra breaths. That would then become my new daily goal, hopefully to be exceeded a bit more each day or week. I started out okay but didn't get as far as I thought I would have. I felt pretty needy during the second exhale retention of the segment where we do retentions with both the inhale and the exhale, rechaka puraka kumbhaka. I convinced myself there was no way I was going to make it through the next exhale retention. As a result, I didn't even make it through the inhale retention. It was a slippery slope after that. I had made a lot of progress in the alternate nostril breathing portion in the last 2 weeks. I had been only taking about one extra breath in each segment. Today, I was taking them about every other exhale retention. Once I gave in to the feeling that I couldn't handle the oxygen deficit or the CO2 build up or whatever the feeling is, it became difficult to enter that zone of unease. In prior days, I could get myself to work through it and in doing so was able to tolerate more cycles of retentions. Today, I just couldn't get my mind back in charge. I even ended up taking some recovery breaths after one of the retentions in the Bhastrika breathing, which I so flippantly called "easy" a short ways back. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on my next attempt at pranayama.
One of the people practicing next to me today was the epitome of relaxation during breathing. I constantly find myself almost rigid with unconscious effort. I have to actively let everything go, almost in a check list kind of way. It's kind of like when I go to the dentist, I have to repeatedly make my body relax. Every time I glanced her way, her shoulder were soft, she wasn't hunched or arched, her neck wasn't taut, she wasn't shaking during the retentions, there was no wild fluctuation in the respirations, no apparent dis-coordination of the diaphragm and glottis that I experience. It was kind of like being at my first yoga class ever and being next to a third series person breezing thru everything, inspiring and disheartening at the same time
As I was leaving pranayama to go to work, I saw the teacher who led the class I went to this weekend come in for Mysore practice. That was good to see. I probably drew some unfair conclusions about him based on a very limited exposure and on no knowledge what-so-ever about his background. Good to know he is choosing to train with Tim. Hopefully I'll get the chance to talk with him sometime and find out a bit more about him.