Monday, October 19, 2009

Simple Steps #17 Breath Pauses

This is a practice for the pranayama limb of yoga.

Throughout the practice of pranayama or breathwork, we are brought again and again to observe our relationship with our breathing as it reflects our life.

Yoga teaches that there are four stages of a healthy breath:
  1. Inhalation or Puraka
  2. Full Pause or Abhyantara Kumbhaka (Pause After Inhaling)
  3. Exhalation or Rechaka
  4. Empty Pause or Bahya Kumbhaka (Pause After Exhaling)
Full pause is the deliberate stoppage of the flow of air and retaining air in the lungs. This happens without any movement of lungs or any part of the body.

Empty Pause, on the other hand, is deliberately prolonged and completes the breathing cycle which terminates as the pause ends and inhalation begins.

Traditional techniques are formulated in order to prolong these pauses.

Does it ever amaze you how often we are conditioned that life is either/or with no space for rest and pause?

While breathing it would go something like this:

Inhale: receive - take in (corresponds to "learn - ask - inquire - get paid - see return on investment - what's in it for me - protect yourself - take your reward - graciously accept - own - have ...)


Exhale: to let go - release (corresponds to "give of yourself - give to others - express - offer - get going - perform - produce - express - speak your mind - give advice - know the answer - teach - support - yearn ...")

What ever happened to the pause in between where nothing is coming or going but simply BEing is enough?

Can you ever even hope to be comfortable without that??

Todays Simple Step

Just for today, practice knowing the space between having and not having - between being full and being empty.

Practice by experiencing the pause at both the top and bottom of your breath.

Inhale gently, slowly, fully, and just as you feel complete... pause.

Enjoy the stillness and acknowledge the feeling of fullness.

Now exhale gently, slowly, fully, and just as you feel empty... pause.

Enjoy the stillness and acknowledge the feeling of being empty.

Repeat for several minutes becoming comfortable with the stages of breath and the thoughts that, for you, surround each stage.

Observe the natural cycle of life.

You will know where the work lies for you to find peace.

This is today's simple step.

Till next time...

photo credit: GCA by Bob Alba

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