Tag Archives: pranayama

Hurdling the Monkey Mind

As humans it is all to easy to get myopic in our view. The minds tends to eclipse broadened perspective with the excessive cataloging, sorting, dialoguing, and chatter of the mind. Practices such as meditation and yoga have for centuries been medicine for this, and many other challenging aspects of the human experience.

Simply being in concentrated relationship with the breath enables the faculty of the mind to do what it does best, focus. The continued focus of the mind on the breath relieves the mind of its grasp on the other stories it has latched onto. Similarly, a challenging and vigorous asana practice directs the minds attention to sorting the movements of the body in concert with the breath. In essence this distraction liberates the mind from the ceaseless chatter of monkey mind.

If we sit long enough with our breath, if we practice hard enough on our mat, there is a moment of freedom. And while this moment might be fleeting, the space experienced there expands into a subtle yet sustained spaciousness that spans the course of a lifetime. If not more.

Practice is a discipline that leads to freedom. It may require hurdling the monkey mind to get to the practice. But once arrive, the gift of the spaciousness that is your natural heart space will be revealed there. Worth the leap every time. Even when your feet get caught up on the hurdle along the way!

A simple practice for these coming weeks in the epoch of eclipse season where the mind moves fast, and then faster, is the practice of sama vritti pranayama. This is a simple breath practice of inhaling and exhaling in equal portions. The basic rhythm of this breath practice enables a calmer mind and a calmer autonomic nervous system response, naturally reducing stress hormones in the body.

To practice this simple, yet profound breath exercise, begin with a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to watch your breath rise and fall in its natural, unadulterated rhythm. When you are ready inhale for a count that does not create a feeling of anguish or anxiousness, a count that you can sustain without extra or exerted effort. At the top of the inhale pause momentarily in the feeling of fullness. Exhale for the same length of your inhale. Again, pause momentarily at the bottom of the exhale in the spaciousness of emptiness. Continue like this for as long as you are comfortable. Attempt to continue beyond the agitation of monkey mind discomfort and into the spaciousness of your heart. A general marker for a beneficial meditation practice is 20-25 minutes. However, three breathes may be enough for you. The beauty of designing a practice that enhances your life is that you get to decide.

No matter what course you choose for your journey may it be a course that brings you into the light of your own innate beauty.

With Love, always, in always, for giving,

Genevieve

For Days like Dump-trucks

There is a serious disorder in expectation about perfection in the yoga conversation. If you thought you were meant to come to the mat already ordered, saved, resolved, and put together, then you have had been fed some bad lemonade, friend. The whole idea is that we come to the mat messy, ever-changing, and hopeful, but it is the mess that leads us deeper into the practice, again and again. Somedays I feel like a dump-truck, and others, like a butterfly. Somedays I am the picture of patience and great perspective, and the next, mired in selfish and constraining ideas. This is the dance, the sloppy play of humanity, and of yoga. The process is in process, that’s why we call it so.

My invitation is to look, with love, at what is happening in the moment, and learn to design a practice for every day, different. On the butterfly days, I practice many pushups, firing a deep inner fire and yearning for strength, then flip over, around exploring the world from the upside, and roll into backbends that lovingly tear away the scar tissue over the vibrancy of my heart. It’s metaphor, of course, but my asana practice on the butterfly days is wild, playful, motile, and verging on passionate ferocity.

And the dump-truck days, are not so. I sit. I breathe. I look out the window. I sit on purpose (concentrate). I sit (meditate). I sit (do nothing). I wait. The practice’s end reveals itself, like a gentle embrace from a friend, calling me to sip tea, or take a bath. On the days when you are feeling far from your free-flying magical-mystical self, and more like digging your head into the earth to hide, try gentle pranayama (extending the life-force through breath), practices like anuloma viloma. In English, this breath is often called alternate nostril breath, and the idea is to balance the energies of opposing currents in the body, bringing the conversation to the table between butterfly and dump-truck, or maybe body and mind. The whole thing will last about seven minutes, dear dump-truck, and the invitation is to dive deeply into the breath, the earth, and all that you are carrying, dump the bucket of all that no longer serves, and find a balanced load for the moment.

Begin in a comfortable seat with an upright and relaxed spine. This position is important for pranayama practice and meditation as it opens the channel between the earthly world and the subtle world, linking like a ladder to what is below and above, alike. It’s pretty much the point; everything you do from this comfortable upright position is extra credit, rich and long-lasting crema on the espresso, so to speak. Open the channel, and then see what falls into your lap. Ten rounds anuloma viloma pranayama begins with a minute of mindful breathing, gently in and out through the nose, with attention on balancing the length of inspirations and expirations. If you find after this mindfulness practice that the inspirations have inspired you to do something else, follow, or that the expirations and letting go are leading you to a different practice of clearing the slate, go.

If you wish to move on, stay, and lightly place your right index and middle fingers at your brow-center. Gently rest thumb on your right nostril, just below the bridge of your nose with gentle pressure, and ring and pinky on the left side in the same manner. The mild restraint of the nasal passageway must be light enough to allow air through easily, but stable enough to bring your mind’s eye to the sensation and call attention. This tender pressure can be applied throughout the pranayama. Take a deep inhalation, completely close the right nostril and exhale left. Inhale left, pause at the top of the breath with both nostrils completely closed, exhale right. Inhale right, pause at the top, both sides completely closed, exhale left. This is one full round. Continue for ten rounds, release right hand and breath through both nostrils, watching the breath for another one to two minutes and enjoy your day deeply, best you can.

Love and respect, Suki

 

A prayer for a day such as winter solstice, when the sun stands still.

May all beings be safe and protected.

In your journey of seeking, of learning and digesting, be wary of those people, practices, and promises that offer certainty, for it is not a natural part of the process. Certainty is not a part of process at all. The best I can present is a guess, a prayer for growth and betterment through consistency and practice. The only absolute is that nothing is, and nothing is a concept we can barely give life to. In the organic world, all is in flux, steadily changing shape, form, and identity through life’s cycle. By dissolving the edges of form, the Universe provides consistency in her shifting footholds on reality. A boundless vessel can never truly be filled, nor depleted.

May all beings be healthy and strong.

I believe we can look to the steady currents of nature for assuredness and when we forget, we ask to be reminded. There is benefit in knowing that all is well. A day like today, when the sun pauses on track, still for the slightest moment, is as close I can imagine ever coming to absolute anything. The moment is fleeting, but real. And in taking pause in the breath, (antara kumbhaka at the top of inhalation, or bahya kumbhaka at the base of exhalation), we emulate the enterprise of stillness while still in life. Amazing.

May all beings be peaceful and happy.

Begin with just a moment, a whispered retention of breath’s movement and course. As you become more comfortable, the invitation to pause for longer will present itself. Wait for the call, honoring the limitations that a body has (at least in the beginning), for such powerful exercise in reservation. Life is a precious and moveable feast. Remember that holding your breath is not a casual practice and to be entertained with a good guide, clean fresh air, and an attitude of non-attachment.

May all beings be well.

My prayer for today is to find stillness at the center of all the movement.

Love, Suki