If you're doing both asana and pranayama practices, which one do you do first?
Since pranayama calms the mind (and thus the body), it's best to do it before you do your asana practice. Influenced by the pranayama, your body will be less likely to move, making your asana practice much more effective.
Depending on your life and time management style, you can do these two yoga practices together in one session. If it works better for you to do them independent of each other at different times of the day, it's certainly okay.
“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment, so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”
Whatever timing you choose, I do highly recommend you do them in your sacred space. Just as doing a cleansing and invocation ceremony in sacred space raises the energy there, pranayama and asana practices do the same.
Three Pranayama Goals
I offered a pranayama practice in part one called the Cleansing Breath. For seven days, try the Cleansing Breath practice each day while in your sacred space.
The first goal is to learn the method so it becomes easy to remember how to do it. Obviously, the more often you do it, the quicker this will happen.
The second goal is to stay focused on your breathing count and complete the cycles without your mind wandering off.
The third goal is to do the inhaling and exhaling breaths as deeply and fully as you can. If you're unfamiliar with how the lungs move, it'll be beneficial to study this a bit. It can help you visualize how breathing in and out as deeply and fully as you can will give you the greatest results.
Some people can get to goal three in seven days. Others need more time. It really doesn't matter because we're all supposed to be different. What does matter is consistency. Just like with any human improvement, positive results with pranayama require practice!
If you'd like to approach pranayama as a spiritual scientist, try this: after you've completed the eight cycles, write some notes in your spiritual diary.
How far did you get with the three goals? What challenges did you have keeping your mind on the practice? What difficulty did you experience breathing in and out fully? And of course, how did you feel different afterwards compared to how you felt when you began?
Not only does note taking help you see your progress over time, it also helps you target where you might need some assistance. It's always helpful to note how comfortable you were with the sitting position you used and what time of day was most conducive to keeping your mind in the now.
One Spiritual Satisfaction program colleague shared that she decided to use her rosary to keep track of her breathing count—that was super genius! Then there's the emotional challenges that come up. One woman went into the practice expecting it would be easy for her, and found out that it wasn't. By reaching out in the colleague group, she eventually saw this as an opportunity to be more compassionate with herself. She became more flexible in defining her progress.
Results Outside of Your Sacred Space
Once you master the eight cycles of the Cleansing Breath in your sacred space, you can also use it whenever and wherever you want throughout your day. Think of those times when you're stressed sitting in traffic and not breathing at all! Or when you're waiting to give a speech and your stomach feels like it's going to fall out of your gut. Pranayama in times like these will calm your mind and bring you back to your center in a big way.
Just like with asana, a benefit of doing pranayama regularly (ideally, daily) is that you become more in tune with your breathing. It emphasizes another physical side of “know thyself."
Spiritual Satisfaction program colleagues have discovered some fascinating things! One woman began to recognize when she was holding her breath and not even knowing it. Another noticed that after three months of practice, she had a calmer reaction to things when triggered emotionally. One found he felt physically better in general by matching his breathing throughout the day with his body movements.
“Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again."
You're Not Alone!
I can guarantee that you'll notice something new about your breathing that you never saw before. After program colleagues experimented with the Cleansing Breath practice, they became way more curious about their breathing.
They witnessed themselves breathing too fast, and sometimes not at all! And in sharing with each other, everyone saw how no one is immune to being unaware of their breathing habits. What will you learn about your breathing this week? I'd love to hear about your experience, and I'm here to support you in your pranayama experiment.
Next: Karma Yoga: the yoga of service!
Ready, Set, Action!
As always, I invite you to explore these topics in your own unique way, by yourself or with others. Share with me about how it's going and what blocks you are running into. You can use the comment section below, or for more privacy, email me at [email protected].
I've devoted my life to the uncovering of my Divine self. Because of the blissful results, I'm committed to supporting fellow seekers in the uncovering of their Divine self. One way I do this is through the Your Path~Your Spiritual Satisfaction group coaching program that I created. It includes a self-assessment on the topics I've discussed in this article.
If you'd like to learn more about it, please join me and the Tree of Life Sanctuary coaching team in one of our regular complimentary information webinars. Click here to learn more.
Written by Laura Abernathy