Day 16 – vigorous pranayama

I wake up earlier than I want to and lie in bed blinking for about half an hour. I could really use the sleep, but I know I need to wake up earlier since my meditation has started to extend toward the 25 minute mark. When I first started, only two weeks ago, ten to fifteen minutes was all I could get to. Now I just open my eyes and realise 20-25 minutes have passed easily.

I burn camphor and benzoin resins on the charcoal and sit comfortably in easy pose, sukhasana. Below are the various seats for mediation. Full and half lotus are not necessary for a meditation practice and most often I just use sukhasana, but I thought it would be best to show the variety of seats:


I need the energy so I am practicing 4 vigorous pranayamas: kapalabhati, bhastrika, seetkari and sheetali.

Kapalabhati purifies ida and pigala nadis, removes sensory distractions from the mind and is energising in such that it removes sleepiness to prepare the mind for meditation. It balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones digestive organs, which is why I practice this first. Sitting comfortably, I take a long inhale and exhale quickly using rapid abdominal breaths to pump out the exhales through the nose. The inhale occurs passively. To begin with, do ten breaths at a time. Eventually, progress to twenty and ultimately thirty. Three rounds are sufficient with two deep long ujjayi breaths between each round.

Bhastrika, the bellows breath, all make abdominal muscles stronger with regular practise. Begin with one breath in two seconds, slowly increase to two breaths per second. Advanced practitioners may do more. I usually start slow and use the same breath rounds as kapalabhati. The benefits are much the same as kapalabhati but in bhastrika, the inhale and exhale are both even and it is the lungs that act like a bellows. The abdomen moves out with an inhale and in with the exhale.

The seetkari and sheetali are both cooling breaths which reduce mental and emotional excitation. and encourage free flow of prana through the body. They both induce muscular relaxation, mental tranquility and may be used as a tranquilliser before sleep. They give control over hunger and thirst, and generate a feeling of satisfaction. The seetkari, or hissing breath is an inhale through the teeth with the lips peeled back and a relaxed exhale through the nose. The sheetali takes the inhale through the tongue rolled (apparently only a third of the population can actually roll their tongue), and an exhale through the nose.

After all four pranayamas I sit in silence and focus on spinal breath visualisation until I feel like I want to open my eyes.

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