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Reply to "Artificial breathing: holding breath a certain time"

Hi Teo and friend here there or coming back from away.

I've had a fair amount of exposure to pranayama (breath science) over the years and I agree with all of your observations. Both Bastrika (bellows-like breath) and breath of fire Kapila-Bhati (skt."skull + shine") should be done only with proper preparation.

Asthanga yogis like to do breath of fire while doing postures like leg raises etcetera while doing vigorous breathing. I went to a teacher on Alcatraz Avenue at Yogalayam Ashram who did that method in a cold room without any other warmup. (I think she needs a disclaimer very badly and she looks pysically less healthy as the years wear on when I have seen her in public)!

Ashtanga Yoga like any other physical activity like dancing and require preperation and warm up. You don't put a beginning ballerina in toe shoes (unless you have a mind to injure her).

As to "artificial breating" like a long count of one for the inbreath followed by retaining the breath for a count of two and breathing out at a count of two can warm you up and be a good priming cycle. Sometimes you find other intervals but that is a typical one.

With all artificial breathing in yoga there is a period of meditation and relaxation either in savasana (corpse pose) or in a sitting or kneeling posture. (You'd need to do a lion coming up to expel the air through your wide open mouth with your eyes wide and "roar").

Iyengar's Light on Yoga addresses the whole subject quite completely and Teo is right that one should be careful.

I differ with Mr. Gurdjieff on the subject of seeing "artificial breathing" as a polar oppisite to something "experimental.

I rather see "natural breathing" as the opposite pole. In natural breathing which is the basis for Vipassana Meditation, one merely watches the movement of the breath at first acknowledging the rising during the inbreath and the falling during the outbreath of the chest and diaphragm.

You don't "make" yourself breathe, but rather let yourself breathe and in a matter of minutes you no longer will have to inwardly acknowledge the rising and falling but can simply breathe and look inward if one practices it in meditation.

I like Vipassana especially because it doesn't require an object like a mantra. We have enough internal conversation in our own heads that will subside just as well with the breathing as an object of meditation than to drown it out with a mantra. You can get stuck in a mantra like Little Johnny One-note.

We should listen to that conversation without seeing it as our "self" or something to be stuck in anyway. When you're watching your natural breathing all that stuff both makes sense and has an opportunity to go away - when accompanied with insight which is the purpose of 'vipassana' which translates: passive watchfullness.

I got a new link for Dhiravamsa who is now at http://www.dhiravamsa.com/ His books go much further on the subject than I have started here. I have taught both Yoga and Vipassana to students and friends and find that they both can be helpful in daily life. You don't even have to 'retreat' somewhere. But quiet indoor environments and beautiful outdoor places are the best for it.

To go full circle, I think you hit the nail on the head about the gentle approach being the preferable way.

"No pain no gain" is for athletes - and those of us who have read 'Soul on Ice' remember that metaphor of the "supermasculine menial under the rule of the omnipotent administrator."

I wonder how many more female Ben Johnsons will be sporting hair on their chests at this olympics.

My Thought of the Day: Be natural!
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