Day 9 – diaphragmatic breathing

I wake up at 6.57am; 3 minutes before my alarm goes off. I did some research last night on a website one of my teachers, Mark Breadner of http://yogacoach.com/, has recommended to me in the past and found some information about pranayama. The website, http://swamij.com/breath.htm, has a great video about diaphragmatic breathing that uses a cadaver to show the diaphragm in relation to the lungs and heart, which really helped with my meditation this morning. I have also been reading Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, one of the main texts used when I did my teacher training in 2007. (Five years ago? Seriously? Wow!) The term pranayama comes from the root words prana, meaning life force or vital energy (which is generally acknowledged to be carried by the breath) and yama meaning control or ayama meaning extension or expansion. However, pranayama is more than just breathing techniques, it is literally a method by which to ‘expand or extend the dimension of prana’.

Most people breath with only a fraction of their lung capacity, depriving the body and mind of vital oxygen. In Asana, Swami Satyananda states that ‘Respiration fuels the burning of oxygen and glucose, producing energy to power every muscular contraction, glandular secretion and mental process’. He goes on to describe the relationship between life span and the breath, noting that animals with faster breathing rates such as birds, dogs and rabbits, live the shortest lives, while animals with slower breath rates such as elephants have the longest life spans. ‘On the physical level, this is because the respiration is directly related to the heart. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger and better nourished and contributes to a longer life’. This is promising. When I turned 25, I really wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I could already by a quarter of the way through my lifetime so I decided that I will be living well into my hundred and twenties, so as to only be a fifth of the way through my lifetime.

I get up and do an hour of vinyasa yoga to a new album I have downloaded from iTunes called Prana Yoga. After savasana, I roll over onto my belly and lay with my forehead resting on my stacked hands and my chest lifted just off the floor. In this crocodile pose, diaphragmatic breathing happens automatically and I can feel my floating ribs pressing into the floor with each inhale.

I sit up, change the music to Classical Indian Flute: Music for Deep Meditation, and close my eyes. I place my hands gently on my floating ribs so that I can feel them expand with each inhale. I imagine the movement of the diaphragm with each breath and quickly come into a space of stillness and calm. After a few minutes like this, I allow my hands to float down to my lap and I continue the full deep breaths. I notice my thoughts have wondered so I gently pull them back to my diaphragm without feeling any frustration, just being aware of it and coming back to the breath. After a while, the deep breaths start to feel really nice, like delicious, almost euphoric. It is like the breath has become a refreshing glass of water that I am drinking in and feeling expanding through my entire body. Then I realise, that this is not just the breath, this is prana that I am feeling. I can actually feel the prana entering my lungs and expanding through my body, both physical and subtle and it is seriously… yummy! I stay here for a full twenty minutes in total and then quietly leave the space feeling lighter.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

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