18 April 2014

Pranayam and Pottery

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                                          Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes
                                            If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
                                                            you would be paralyzed.
                              Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding
                                          the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
                                                                    as bird wings.

Prana + Ayam = Pranayam
Vital life force + Using every dimension = Pranayam
Ayam has been defined to be control/diciplining. Somehow it does not sit well to think that something as strong yet subtle as the Life-force can be controlled. The thought is borderline arrogant.

Like a stringed musical instrument can stay tuned for a long/short while after having its strings adjusted, the rhythm, depth, rate of breathing can be altered for the better, for hours/days after conscious breath-work.

If our breath is likened to a horse then Prana is the horse-rider and Pranayam helps us with deeper, fuller flow of prana to every cell of the being. This tuning process can take hours or it can be just one long exhale.

As we change the way we breathe, the carbon dioxide content of our blood changes, our neurological responses shift, and our endocrine levels undergo radical alteration. The respiratory centres in the lower brain stem respond to these changes by resetting themselves.

It should suffice for us to know that the lengthening/shortening of breaths which usually happens without our awareness alters many things in the body/mind complex.

You may have learnt Pranayam dear reader or may intend to or not.
Either way you may know that there are various techniques for eg: Kapalbhati, Anulom-vilom, Bhramari, Cooling pranayam and many others. I don't think theorizing about them is needed right now since learning them practically is far more beneficial.

I personally find that if I'm running short of time I do just the alternate-nostril breathing or Anulom-vilom and that is enough. Each of you would benefit by exploring for yourself, these techniques and checking how they make you feel.

Since it is summer in India I will outline the Cooling techniques today. These help in cooling and calming us down as a whole and extremely beneficial in warm weather as well as for stress/blood pressure.

Sheetali- the cooling one. Sit in a comfortable manner with the spine erect yet relaxed. Pull the sides of your toungue upwards to form a tube which is open at the top :) This is a bit funny at first and you may want to giggle. So Giggle. After that try to hold the tongue in prescribed shape and inhale through this tongue-tube. When the inhale is complete, relax the tongue, close your mouth and breathe out normally through the nostrils. Do this a few times and then sit and be aware of what is happening in the chest-lung region.
Sheetali This picture is from the ayurveda yogashram site.

Sheetkari-one that causes cooling. Now pull the tip of your tongue up and backwards held back with the upper set of teeth. Breathe in through the tube formed at the sides of the mouth. If a giggle escapes you at first it's okay. Giggle and resume. Exhale through the nostrils with the tongue relaxed and mouth closed normally. A few rounds of this and gain get aware of what is happening within the torso.

 I could not find a suitable pic for this one. Hope the explanation is picturesque enough.

Sadanta- literally means, With the Teeth. Here hold your teeth as they are when your mouth is shut, only bare your gums by separating the lips and flaring them. Don't wonder about how that makes you look. If alone it doesn't matter, if in a group class everyone is in the same boat, so again it doesn't matter. Breathe in. Air will come through the tiny gaps between the teeth. This is great for dental hygiene too. Yet again after even three rounds if you cannot do 5-10 rounds, let yourself get aware of what is happening in the chest-lung region.
Sadanta In the pic the man has managed to look like he is smiling while he is doing the Sadanta.

You will find something subtle and cool spreading in the mid torso area as well as the stomach.

* Let the eyes stay closed all through, once you have learned the right way of keeping the tongue and teeth in the 3 techniques
* If you blood pressure is low do not do more than 5 rounds each on a warm day.
* Various yoga teachers teach variations of above techniques, that is okay, let us not get too stuck with form and shape.
* These as well as all yoga practices except Mindfulness/awareness should ideally be learned in person by a Guru.

And now to change topic a little and jump into pottery. I say change a little because all art seems like yoga to me, for yoga is the union of us with ourselves or connecting with ourselves fully and what is art if not that.

With pottery, the act of sinking the hands into clay/mud, cleaning it, making it pliant, shaping, throwing pots on the wheel- all of it connects me to my self as deeply as anything else ever can.

A picture of some of my own pottery 

Thanks for visiting dear reader, do leave me a comment I shall be grateful, come back everyday and I shall love you for it :)
The link below will take you to all the other blogs participating in the April blog challenge. There is a huge variety of theme and the bloggers have worked with great interest to bring you well written, interesting posts.



Beloo Mehra said...

Sunila, I love you even more today. Not just because of your very helpful post on cooling breathing techniques (my fav one and the one that I find very helpful is the first one - seethali), but also because of your pottery. I love terracotta and clay pottery. Many years ago I once tried my hand at pottery - made some strange looking pots, bowls etc...gave them all away as gifts. But someday hope to learn this art more systematically. You are really good at terracotta. Some great pieces there. Wonderful post, once again!

Jayanta said...

Dear Ma'M, First on your pottery, they look beautiful. I mean it. And am sure they do give you the pleasure of your own creations by making your hands real dirty..

On Pranayam, you continue to share the knowledge which is very helpful. I will surely give the cooling techniques try. As part of Pranayama, I do try to observe my breath and how they get in and come out of the lungs and bronchial tubes.. Thanks again.

Anita Desai said...

Beautiful Pottery. A well written informative post on Pranayam. I never knew 'Sheetali', thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Cooling breathing techniques...? YES, PLEASE! Peeeerfect timing! I'm gonna try these right away. And wow- you are one talented lady Sunila - those pottery are awesome!!!Hats off!