Space between the breaths

A pranayama expert that I ran into the other day.

According to many yogis and sages, that is where it’s at. Between the breaths. In – space – out – space.

I have tried on a few occasions to meditate, to become one with the candle, quiet the mind, get some of the monkeys under control. So far, a herd of monkeys laughs in my face every time I try to sit still, and before you know it I’m making an alphabetized list of the knick-knacks I need to dust RIGHT NOW. And if you know me, you’d know that I don’t dust.  Well, I do, but only when absolutely necessary.

It’s frustrated me a bit, that I can’t seem to sit still, and therefore all those lovely benefits of meditation have been out of my reach.  And there are a LOT of benefits. An ambitious blogger even rattled off a list of 100 different benefits, ranging from reducing PMS (hey honey!) to lightning focus to reduced road rage and of course enlightenment. Fat lot of good that stuff does me, as I can’t sit on my ass (or a pillow) for more than 40 seconds before losing the plot. And if I try to meditate laying down, I’m off to la-la land before the back of my head meets my yoga mat.

During one of the weekends of my yoga teacher training, we went through a workshop with Betty Larsen and John Charping. As a part of that weekend, John taught us about pranayama. He showed us several ways of setting ourselves up, spoke about the difference between laying down and sitting up, and instructed us in the different techniques.
Before I know it, I’m on my back, set up comfortably on my blankets and lo and behold, kind of doing that “being one with the breath” thing.  Nothing forced, just letting it happen as I am being instructed. Ever since, I’ve spent a good deal of time being with the breath, appreciating the space between the breaths and just letting whatever is happening happen.

As soon as I’m done with my homework of anatomy, class sequencing, sutra studying combined with a shitload of personal practice, I’m totally going to read up on Iyengar’s “Light on Pranayama“.  To quote the guru himself: “The mind is the king of the senses,  and the breath is the king of the mind”.

If you are keen on exploring the awesomeness of breathing, I say go for it. Just do it slowly and start with the basics.  Ideally a pranayama practice follows a good solid foundation in asana practice (aka doing yoga), which serves to prepare the body as well as the mind for the flow of the prana – which can be quite powerful. Us westerners are sometimes wound so tight that something as simple as few deep breaths into your belly can bring on a stress response, making the experience anything but lovely. Our breath is intrinsically connected to our nervous system and that bears respecting. Always goes back to ahimsa, the first of the yamas.  Non-violence. Be kind to yourself. And breathe :)