Seeds of Change

Happy Holi to you!

For the past week, I have been alternating between moments of deep anxiety and sheer excitement.  In a few short days I will be landing in Delhi, India, for a two+ week pilgrimage with my teacher and a lovely group of fellow yogis.  My days have been filled with list checking and pre-packing.

This Monday, March 13th, marks the beginning of Holi in India, a three day Hindu festival celebrating fertility, and the arrival of spring.  It is a festival filled with color–colored powder and water is thrown with abandon!  While I will not be arriving in time for this particular festival, thoughts of spring, seeds, and flowering trees have been painting my inner world.  Now is the time to plant, water, and nurture opportunity and change in my life.  What new things are you planting in your garden of life?

In the spirit of Holi and springtime, I offer you a breath (pranayama) practice that reflects my current frame of mind.  Bhramari Pranayama, or Bee Breath, is a pranayam that sounds like the humming of bees (which totally makes me smile)!   This practice helps to instantly calm the mind, and is very helpful in releasing anxiety or frustration, anger and fear.

How to practice Bhramari Pranayama:  Sit comfortably erect, with eyes closed and a gentle smile at the corners of your mouth.  Place the tips of your index fingers on the cartilage between your cheeks and your ears.  Press gently, closing the ears.  Inhale, and as you breathe out make a loud humming sound.  Inhale, and repeat the sequence 6-7 times.  Then rest you hands in your lap, observing the sensations in your body and noticing the quiet within for as long as you like.  When you feel done, open your eyes and continue with your day.

One final note, during my absence (March 16-31st) a series of most excellent subs have been arranged for you.

I look forward to sharing my experiences in India with you when I return in April.


Breath Science

We do it every day, every moment of every hour in a day, and usually with very little thought devoted to it.  Breathing.  Inhaling and exhaling.  Simple and autonomous, and yet so much more.  B. K. S. Iyengar wrote that prāna is “breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy, or strength.”  Prānāyāma is essentially the science of breathing.  Body and mind, breath and mind, are inextricably linked together.  When we work with our breath, we directly affect and influence the physiology of the body.  Steady, even inhalations and exhalations help balance and regulate the nervous system.  Longer exhalations shift the body in to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and soothing to the body (think slowing down of the heartbeat).

As the body calms, desire diminishes and the mind settles.  This is why in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, prānāyāma is described as a precursor to concentration.  Concentration is one of the core precepts of meditation.  With a calm mind, meditation becomes effortless instead of a struggle.  Then we can begin the work of sifting through the layers of “stuff”–thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, boredom, the endless play of life–until we reach Source.

Beginning this week and continuing through the year, we will be learning and practicing a series of prānāyāma techniques as an integral part of our meditation practice.  Join me every Friday, 1:30-2:00pm, Breath & Meditation, Breathe Los Gatos.