Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pranayama for the Svadhisthana Chakra

Pranayama is a yogic practice that should be approached with caution because some of the practices can be dangerous. If you have high or low blood pressure, you need to make sure that you do not do any breath control practices without first researching what is or is not safe. For the muladhara chakra, I chose the alternate nostril breathing practice because it is an all purpose practice and cleanses all of the chakras. This pranayama practice is called Nadi Sodhana and is a very basic beginner’s practice. Always listen to the body. If you feel dizzy or uncomfortable at any time, stop the practice, allowing your breathing to return to its natural state. A slightly more advanced method is Dirga Pranayama and is a deep breathing practice that is deeply relaxing. You can do this practice sitting in a comfortable meditation position or lying down. For the purpose of this svadhisthana chakra focus, I am asking you do this in Corpse Pose the first time, to get a better feel for what you will be doing.
Lying in Corpse Pose, place your hands on your lower abdomen so that when you exhale fully your fingertips are barely touching, as if lightly kissing one another. Keep your hands in this position as you allow your breathing to slow down. You should feel your fingertips drawing slightly apart as you inhale and then coming together as you exhale. If your abdomen is not moving freely, begin here and go no further. Simply practice the wonderful habit of belly breathing. Many people only breath into the lungs and although, technically speaking, you never actually breath into the belly, when you allow the belly to move as you breathe, much as an infant’s belly will rise and fall as it sleeps, your lungs will fill with more air. If you are already comfortable with breathing into the belly, move onto the actual pranayama practice. When you are ready, mindfully focusing on the svadhisthana chakra, begin to inhale, drawing the breath first into the deepest part of your belly. This may come easily or feel somewhat peculiar, depending on your experience. It is more natural to into the top of the lungs first but you will want to draw the breath into a deeper part of the body. As you continue to inhale, allow the breath to fill your body upwards from the belly, into the solar plexus, up through the lungs until even your collar bones are filled with oxygen. Once you have pulled in as much air as you can actively draw into your body, begin to exhale slowly beginning at the top of the chest and moving back down slowly into the belly. Take your time with the inhalation and the exhalation. Try to count to ensure that they are of equal lengths. For some people this may be a count of four or six or eight or more. Only do this for a cycle of five to six breaths. Leaving your hands where they are, allow your breathing to return to its natural rhythm. As I said before, you can do this practice sitting up but it is often easier for beginners to do this lying down to get a better feel for the deep abdominal breathing required. When you are comfortable doing this practice sitting up, you may want to try a prolonged pranayama practice beginning with Nadi Sodhana and moving into Dirga Pranayama. Or you may want to do one or the other as a transition into meditation as both pranayama practices lend themselves very well to slowing down the breath and centering the body before sitting in silent meditation. Enjoy!

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