Yoga is an experiential science. There are plenty of books about yogic techniques, but it can only be learned and internalized by practice. Whenever I give a class, I try to reach that moment of expansive stillness that offers us a glimpse of the eternal. I usually do a savasana mid-class, then sing or chant mantra. The changing (prakriti) gives way to the stillness of silence and I can feel that wonderful ephemeral relaxation descend upon the group. I gently ease back into movement, first observing the mind, inviting it to remain present for the rest of the practice, before doing some gentle pranic postures, like apanasana or dvipada-pitham with bandhas, before sitting for pranayama. It’s just my way of constructing a class, my humble offering. AUM.
Namasté. I went this weekend with my yoga group to the Sierra de Mariola, near Alcoy. A lovely break, it was. We stayed at a lovely casa rural called “Casa Bons Aires.” If you should chance to visit the Font Roja region of Alicante, I highly recommend a visit.
The theme of our studies was pranayama, but the unintentional theme was sound. We chanted the Gayatri mantra in the vedic form as a group. We sang some bhakti mantras together, with yours truly on guitar. We laughed our asses off over supper. The rooster crowed us awake in the morning. Claudia the donkey brayed. Water flowed and gushed. Gases erupted unexpectedly in down dog (adho mukha svanasana). We practiced bhramhari pranayama. We had fun…ananda! Santosha!
There really is nothing like a few days away to recharge your batteries. “Cambiar el aire” as the Spanish say. Although I arrived home tired, I feel like I’ve had a month of holidays!
Meanwhile. have a listen to Wade Imre Morrissette sing the Tara Mantra. I went to High School with this fellow. I must admit that I would not have imagined him ending up chanting sanskrit mantras! Wahey Guru!!
The breath is the link between the exterior and the interior yogic practices. It is not in vain that pranayama is the fourth of the eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga. The first three are the most external: habits and behaviours towards yourself and others (niyamas, yamas) and postures (asana). The last 4 angas are to do with the mind (dhyana, dharana etc.) Therefore, the breathing techniques (pranayama) form the link between the body and the mind.
The mind has no form, it is composed only of the thoughts that define it. The quality of mind can be either tamasic (heavy) or rajasic (excited) when not trained. The trained mind is satvic (calm). Because it is very difficult to work directly on the mind, to make it more satvic, we bring the mind under control by learning the control the breath. Breathing is the only physiological process that is under both conscious and unconscious control.
An easy way to focus your yoga practice is to pay attention to the breath. The breath should be a parenthesis to the movement. This means that the breath is always longer than the movement: it begins before the movement begins, and ends after the movement ends. For example, with arms by your side, begin breathing in. Raise your arms above your head. Finish the breath after the arms come to vertical. Now, do this breathing technique throughout your practice. It is very difficult to maintain this kind of mental focus. Don’t worry if your mind wavers. When you notice it doing so, come back to the focus (bhavana.)