Before we get into the practice we need to discuss the why’s.
Before undertaking any practice it is important to know why you are doing it. This understanding helps to direct your will. All practices are second nature and it is through this technical training that a skill can be developed. This requires training and repetition which can then create a pattern and ritual that organizes your day. Practices are most important when life is hardest. You always learn the technique so that eventually you can use the technique and this is more true now than ever.
It is easy to practice and have an organized day when you feel amazing and everything is going how you perceive it should go. But it is precisely when your whole world flips on you that the practices become most important. This is right now. Our practices are all for these moments. When life seems unorganized, confusing, flipped upside down, when there are no answers except that which is inside of us, when the safety we are given is the safety of our home. There is a huge opportunity right now to reorganize and reorient ourselves personally, communally and collectively. I cannot stress this enough: our capitalist society was shaken to its very core, this is our in, let’s rebuild a world we would like to see in harmony with each other and our earth.
Pranayama is thus the skillful use of body and breath to participate in one’s wellbeing. Prana isn’t air, it is space dust, it is all the cosmic matter of the atmosphere weighted. The atmosphere is filled with ions, ores, minerals, and this magic is floating all around. One doesn’t just get these minerals because of the very fact one breathes; rather, one must use the tool to extract this cosmic food. The tool used is the thyroid, the ventilation system of the body. Breathing through the nose, one’s breath gets filtered and heated and sent to the respiratory filtering station (the lungs) to be processed. This ‘oxygen’ then fills our cells and, if used properly, feeds our brain and body. The toxins that sit deep in the lungs are expelled, allowing us to participate in eliminating waste matter.
In the pranayama practice we play with manipulating the chemistry of our glands and creating space for our organs so they can work like pumps, as designed. Note that chakras and glands are same thing, it is just a different language and a different culture. You can get joy in any language, you can get a great meal with any spice. It is you, and what you put into it.
Keep in mind that whatever one overuses eventually wears out. The goal is to refine what one always uses, whilst having an exploratory dialogue of what one doesn’t use, one’s weak spot. This allows one to have an experience that may not have been available before. The practice works with the information the body relays. The information is not to be judged; it is never right or wrong, it is information that is speaking to the personal, so that you can participate in working where you don’t normally go. Try to watch your self with wonder, compassion, curiosity, and understanding.
As you set up for Pranayama always keep your hips above your knees. When the hips are higher than the knees the waters of the kidneys will drain down to a further south. Always play for the physics. If all of water goes deep, set yourself up on height so the waters don’t get stagnant. Stagnant water will breed infection; setting yourself up on height sets up the drain for the kidneys. If the knees are in line or above the hips then eventually all the pressure will break the boundaries and knee pain will ensue. Knee pain is typically a product of a hip condition or a foot condition since the knee is in the middle of the seesaw. Find lots of height to support yourself so you are comfortable and can continue the practice in a way that supports your well-being. If your body is aching it will be very hard to remain focused in pranayama so a set yourself up so you are comfortable.
Your practice today is to set up for pranayama. You can choose one of the following poses:
Virasana: the virility pose, designed to shape the arch of the foot, shaping every curve in the body. This one is easiest to access just be sure to use a lot of height under your perineum such as a block, bolster, or stack of books.
Siddhasana: sets up the third foot, the arch of the foot on the arch of the foot on arch of the perineum.
Lotus is the most challenging and only recommended if you have a refined yoga practice. If your knee is lifted off the ground then choose a pose from above.
When you set yourself up in pranayama it will be the same as coming into any pose. Immediately put yourself in centre. The minute you put yourself in centre then you are playing the right angle of righteousness. Use your imagination to draw a line from the heavens through your skull, your torso and your perineum, then down into the centre of the earth. In this way you open yourself up as a conduit between heaven and earth. This line runs through your third eye, which refracts, your third hand, which vibrates, and your third foot, which reverberates. Play for the trinity in the centre as each of these three centres mediates the polarity of its floor. The centre of the chest is the great mediator of all polarities, as each line moves through it.
Place the tongue on the palate: this is the key that opens up the central channel, the tai chi, the sutra atman. From the central axis, the future is out in front and the memory is back behind. Orient yourself so you know how to move forward in life while using a supportive memory to sustain it all. Everything on the left side of the body, the left leg, left hand, left eye, holds the potential, it is the dawning of the innocence and the location of the sunrise. Everything on the right side, the right leg, right hand, right eye, holds the experience, the ability to see, participate and substantiate in the world. You always put yourself in the centre knowing that you are in the centre of a happening thing. The world is very busy, it is very noisy and it is by virtue of it being alive that it makes noise. The goal isn’t to not hear it, it is to know what you are hearing, how to manipulate what you are hearing, how to organize what is being heard, and then eventually how to use it the information to your advantage.
Know that you can control the breath but your breath will breathe without you controlling it. The art of these practices is to begin to participate in the breath, refine the breath, and eventually manipulate the breath so the breath can be regulated. Breath is a piece of the autonomic nervous systems’ dialogue, you can actively participate in the breath to manipulate and make conscious what is autonomic. Thus this practice becomes a gateway to a regulation of these “automatic” responses. This is a very powerful piece of the information for health and longevity.
So the first thing you will do here is notice the breath. Find your seat and notice the breath. The inhale. The exhale. Which is longer? Is your breathing quick? Is it slow? What is the relationship with the breath and your thoughts. Notice that by simply noticing the breath it changes. How does it change? How do the thoughts change?
Sit with yourself. And then we will begin the practices.