breath, Pranayama Book Club

Pranayama Book Club undaunted

I didn’t think I’d be disappointed if nobody came to PBC last Sunday, but I was.  It’s so helpful to have someone else to work with when you’re trying to be disciplined. However, Jill will be there next time, and maybe Judy, and maybe some others, and so I am not discouraged.

If you were thinking of coming, please do.  I think this group will remain open forever, and anyone who wants to show up at any time is welcome.  No need to feel oppressed by commitment.  And if you can’t make it but want to follow along in the book, please do that too.  I plan to keep notes in this blog.

So I sat at Mirth, drank coffee and ate a muffin and reviewed the first couple of chapters of The Breathing Book (Donna Farhi). It’s been ages since I first read this book, and I never did all the exercises in it.  (The author calls them inquiries, and I will too, henceforth.)

What I’d like to do, and hope others will do too, is do the inquiries up to p. 24.  The one that begins on p. 24 says it takes 15 minutes, but it looks longer to me.  I want to take this project slowly and thoughtfully, and not bite off more than I will chew.

Next meeting will be at 8:45, Sunday, January 30, at Mirth (8th & New Hampshire).

breath, kindness

Obstacles: Snow, dogs, sciatica, chest cold

Usually I get up and go for a walk before the dogs are up.  Then I come back, take them outside, and then feed them and practice pranayama. It snowed, so I couldn’t go for my walk. It’s not possible to get up and sneak down to my practice space without waking the dogs.  Buster won’t go outside without a human, which means getting fully dressed, with boots, coat, mittens, hat, etc.  Then after the dogs have been out, they, or at least Sadie, must eat. Then Buster finds it necessary to accompany me to the mat.  “Off the mat.  Off the mat!” He’s doesn’t know that command.

The chest cold would necessitate sitting upright for pranayama, or at least with chest raised.  Sitting isn’t so great with sciatica, so I supported my chest with a bolster.  I just couldn’t last 20 minutes.

Wow, what a whiny post!  I think I will congratulate myself on some Ujjayi breathing and Savasana for 12 minutes.  Good job, Mary!


The book for Pranayama Book Club

We’re going to read The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi. The Lawrence Public Library has one copy. I’ve read this book a couple of times, but not for a long time, and not since I got more serious about pranayama.

I will try to document how this goes for anyone who is interested but can’t make it.

Also, I’m trying to think of a more interesting name.  Breath Club?  Suggestions welcome.

Wondering what this is about? Look two posts back.

8:45 am, Jan. 16, Mirth Cafe at 8th & New Hampshire. I’ll be there.  You?


Pranayama book club

Ummmmm, ok, I’m taking the plunge.  I’ve been thinking lately about starting a pranayama book club.  If I put this up here, that means I’m doing it.  (Not that I don’t already have plenty to do.)

I own four pranayama books and have read 2 1/2 of them.  I have a pranayama practice that I’ve started and stopped and started several times. I’d like to get more reading done and get more inspiration for my pranayama practice.  (That pun was unintentional.)

Here’s the plan, tentatively.  We meet at Mirth at 8:45 on alternate Sunday mornings.  We read one of the books, slowly, doing the exercises or suggestions or practices specified in the book. We just get together to talk about our progress, not to do pranayama together.

The timing of the group would mean that people who like to go to the 10:00 class at the Yoga Center could do so.  Also, maybe in the spring I would teach a pranayama class on the opposite weeks.

Any takers?  I’m going to start on Jan 16. If nobody shows up I’ll just read and drink my coffee and go home.

The books are:

  • The Yoga of Breath, by Richard Rosen
  • Light on Pranayama, by B. K. S. Iyengar
  • The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi
  • Pranayama Beyond the Fundamentals: An In-Depth Guide to Yogic Breathing, by Richard Rosen

I haven’t decided which one to start with, so I’m taking suggestions.  Leave a comment or send me a message.

Update: Jill and I decided on The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi.


Pranayama patience

Mary O. gave me suggestions for my pranayama practice that I have started implementing.  I usually do five minutes of Savasana, two five minute segments of reclining pranayama (ujjayi or viloma or both) and then five more minutes of Savasana.

Mary suggested that I start practicing seated pranayama. That’s what I’m doing for the second five minutes, sitting on blankets high enough so that my knees are not higher than my hips, with another blanket between my knees and ankles for support, and with my sacrum against the wall.  At this point I’m just observing my breath, not doing a specific type of practice, and I’ll do that for a while.

Everything I learn about pranayama includes lessons in patience.  No rush.  There’s no test at the end, because there’s no end.

I really find it a peaceful and rewarding practice.

breath, general blather

Keeping track on your fingers

All righty, this is a very geeky post.

I have read in a couple of places that one way to count while you’re practicing, e.g., six ujjayi breaths followed by normal breaths, is to use your finger joints.

Open your hand and look at the finger joints.  Your fingers have three each, for a total of twelve joints.  Use your thumb to touch the joints and use them as counters.  So on your first breath, put your thumb on the bottom joint of your index finger.  Second breath, thumb on the middle joint of your index finger.  Third breath, thumb on the top joint of your index finger.  And so forth.

Why this is cool: English and Sanskrit and many other languages are in the Indo-European language family.  Evidence has been used from many of these languages to reconstruct proto-Indo-European, a prehistoric language spoken as far back as the 5th milleneum BC.  This language and some of its descendants used a base twelve counting system, instead of our base ten system.  The base twelve system arose from the same knuckle counting I’ve described here.  So this is an ancient way to count on your hands.

(Linguistic trivia:  Ever noticed that the words for the numbers 11 and 12 don’t follow the pattern of the words for the other numbers between 10 and 20?  That pattern is ‘three-ten’ = ‘thirteen’, ‘four-ten’=’fourteen’, etc.  ‘Eleven’ and ‘twelve’ don’t break down into two parts that way.  That’s because they’re remnants of the base twelve system.)

breath, general blather

Back to the blog, pranayama

Wow, I’d better get busy on this blog, because we’re doing YoMo in January again, and the introductory emails link here.  It would be embarrassing to have written nothing new.

I’ve been doing yoga, but just not writing about it.  My asana practice has not been as strong as I’d like, however, because I’m taking a pranayama class, which is making me practice pranayama every day.  According to Mr. Iyengar, you have to wait half an hour or so after asana practice to do pranayama, or a couple of hours after pranayama to do asana.  It’s hard to cram both in.

I am loving the pranayama practice, though. My husband accuses me of getting up in the morning and going downstairs and falling back to sleep on the mat.  Amazingly, it’s not true.  I don’t fall asleep.  It’s very peaceful, but not soporific.

No photos or drawings work for pranayama practice.  Maybe I’ll write more about it later.

breath, kindness, mulling things over

Beginning, middle, end

At the beginning of home practice I like to do some sort of centering to be present on the mat.  Yesterday in our group practice we chanted “om” three times.  Just as we inhaled for the first time, the phone rang. My husband wasn’t home to answer it.  “Let’s just keep going,” I said.  The ringing didn’t impede our centering.

In the middle I try to pay attention to what I’m doing.  It seems fine to chitchat when practicing with friends, although we never (or rarely) do so in class.  Much of the chat has to do with what we’re doing anyway.  We help each other with alignment, remind each other to breathe, comment on how the asana feels. It’s gentle and companionable.

At the end it’s time to come back to the world.  Sometimes we say something more than “namaste”, and sometimes not.  Most often I think something, such as:

  • All one breath
  • Bow head to heart, surrender ego to compassion, and honor the divine within
  • This is perfect, that is perfect, from the perfect springs the perfect.  When perfect is taken from perfect, perfect remains.

I am doing yoga for my body, most certainly. I am also doing it for awareness of that one breath. If we know we are all breathing the same breath, how can we fail to be compassionate?

breath, poses

Ten breaths

I used to time my poses with my Palm, using a nifty little add-on called PocketDoan, which is a highly configurable timer.  It has some perfect sounds on it, like chimes, bells, and wooden clackers, which are much nicer alerts than buzzers and beeps.  I still use it for Savasana.

But now in most poses I use counted breaths.  Ten breaths (that’s one inhalation and one exhalation) are usually 45-60 seconds for me.  It’s a calming way to hold the pose and keep my attention in the right place.