Everybody knows about Kino's podcasts on Youtube right? She must have around thirty posted now that cover workshops on meditation, bandhas, breath, as well as Q&A sessions, led classes etc. you can download them directly to your iPhone from the itunes app already on your phone or you can access them here.
I can't recommend them enough, insightful, inspiring and at times funny, really funny. She's down to earth and seems prepared to try and answer any question directly and honestly.
Some surprises too.
I was listening to her podcast on the breath from Jan 2010 and she came out with this
'Guruji recommended 10 second inhalations and exhalations on every breath, allowing for that natural pause in between'.
Reminded me of the time I heard this on Richard Freemans's DVD
So I tried it, 10 second inhalation and exhalation on every breath and in every posture. You just know that by the time I reached Utthita Eka Padasana I was pretty much counting in nano seconds. It's hard, really hard. So I gave up on that before the end of standing and sat down with the Sweeney book after practice and counted the number of inhalations and exhalations in Primary. I worked it out that at that rate your practice would take three and a half hours. this is assuming you can manage a 10 second inhalation through twists like Marichiyasana D.
I listened to the Podcast again and to put it into context Kino is talking about how we tend to speed up during practice, especially in the difficult postures, Navasana, Marichiyasana D. She talks about how as you become more experienced it's possible to revisit, Primary, and aim at much longer inhalations and exhalations, total breath control, the 10 second inhalation and exhalation that Guruji suggested and in every posture.
Let me make that clear, your not expected to do the 10 second inhalation and exhalation from the word go, it's something to aspire to, perhaps. Though 'doing rechaka and puraka fully as possible' IS recommended on almost every page of the asana section of yoga mala. Kino seems to want to encourage us to make sure our inhalation and exhalation is equal throughout the practice, and that we don't speed up. Though I didn't manage that full ten seconds I did make a point of breathing more slowly throughout, it felt good. She does say, later in the podcast, that you can work towards that long inhalation and exhalation in padmasana during finishing.
Is it just me or did the equalizing of the inhalation and exhalation become stressed only recently, perhaps I just started noticing it although I did look back through some of the older Ashtanga texts and nobody seems to mention it explicitly. It might be that I began to notice it recently because it appeared to be at odds with the Vinyasa Krama approach.
Ramaswami too, encourages long, steady inhalation and exhalation and even the equalizing of the breath in the Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga but recognizes that this is difficult in forward bending postures and twists. Rather than shorten the inhalation to match the exhalation they become unequal, a five second inhalation and ten second exhalation is suggested in, for example, paschimottanasana. In Pranayama this is called vishamavritti (unequal duration). (In my own Pranayama practice I use a ratio of 1:4:2:1 where the inhale is five seconds and the exhale ten). I'd got into the habit of employing that ration 1:2, pretty much throughout my practice. The Kino podcast made me look again and more closely at Ramaswami's books.
He does say that long inhalations are more difficult than long exhalation and recommends that we work on increasing the length of inhalation in Pranayama away from the more stressful asanas that would make that so challenging. He does say, however, that you can practice longer inhalation on the classic yoga meditation asanas, padmasana, vajrasana, mulabhandasana etc.
In my practice now, I'm with Kino in trying to make sure I don't speed up my practice and to equalize the breath in postures that don't involve deep forward bends twists or backbends. In those poses I take note of Ramaswami and employ vishamavritti. unequal breaths, longer exhalations in the forward bends and twists, longer inhalations in the backbends. That long exhalation in Paschi is so glorious that I don't want to sacrifice it just so my breath is equal.
As my practice is a Vinyasa Krama inspired Ashtanga (or is that the other way around) I include jump backs, jump throughs and pose set up's on the breath. What do you call all that stuff that goes on between the actual postures? Whatever you call it I'm trying to make sure the breath is even and slower, a conscious effort not to speed up there.
Do I lose rhythm by improvising the breath, I don't think so I'll leave you with Ornette Colman to make my argument for me.
BTW, the Sax Ornette is holding in the picture is the Grafton, same as the one of mine I just sold to get to la la land : (