Release Using Pranayama
The Hindu god, Ganesha (depicted with the head of an elephant) hangs above my doorway. Lord Ganesha is often shown with one of his tusks broken or completely missing. The tradition of this was that Lord Ganesha gave up a piece of himself to acquire spiritual knowledge. He is often called the “remover of obstacles” and because of his wisdom and spiritual understanding, many people pray to him when they are need of wisdom and a release from something in their lives.
Every time I pass through my doorway, I am reminded that to obtain wisdom I must let something go first; release my fears, my anxiety and my ego. To gain the knowledge necessary to move forward, I must allow a piece of the puzzle to fall away so that something better suited can take its place. I do not like letting go. I do not like change. (I will hold onto sweaters until they literally fall apart!). This entire concept of letting go has taken some time to get used to. It has happened slowly, over time, with much trial and error.
I tend to live in the past, replaying what could have been and how I could have done things differently. I think of past relationships, past jobs and even past experiences and wonder what I could have done differently. Sometimes there is a romantic nostalgia about looking back, but in reality it can often anchor you to the past with the habit of glossing over reality. The problem is that by staying in the past, we miss what is literally right in front of us; the moment, the opportunity and life itself.
This is true asana practice as well. I so often see students arrive to their mat after a hiatus and struggle the entire class to reconcile what they were capable of and where they are in their current practice. I can literally see and feel the tension build from their feet to the top of the head. It is a body screams, “I am here, but my mind is somewhere else entirely”. It is easy to get stuck in the past when we let it command our present. There is no secret formula to unlock a way to stop this pattern. It takes patience and lots of practice. In this journey, you have to stay ever present with the moment to release the scars of the past, because life changes heartbeat to heartbeat and you miss every opportunity before you when you hold onto the past, both mentally and physically.
Pranayama or “energy control” is one of the most effective tools to stay in alignment with the moment because as long as you are breathing, you are connected to the present. A great tool to assist with release using pranayama during practice is what I like to call the audible exhalation. It is a breath that is inhaled slowly through the nose and exhaled with a long sigh through the mouth. It helps to physically release the shoulders and the heart.
Below I have included a great way to experience this sensation of release using an audible exhalation in standing forward fold. Forward folds literally let tension “drip” off your back and shoulders.
1. Come into standing forward fold with feet hip distance apart.
2. Keep knees bent and lay the belly towards the thighs.
3. Root through your feet and wrap arms around elbows.
4. As you inhale, breathe up the spine through to the back of the hips.
5. With an audible exhalation, allow the entire body to release, letting a low rumble emerge from the back of the throat. Do this slowly to avoid making yourself light-headed.
6. Take five to eight rounds of breathing and come to stand slowly or rest in child’s pose for a few rounds of organic breathing while allowing the blood pressure to settle.
Practice this technique with patience and release your past in a safe, compassionate and organic way. Next month, we will look at ways to invite growth and vitality to the body, mind and heart once space has been created through the art of letting go.
Light & Love,