Q: I’ve been having a lot of resistance toward Pranayama. When I sit to meditate, I feel good. My experience is very deep. I’m even feeling a strong sense of healing and I feel very vibrant when I’m done meditating. None of that happens when I do Pranayama.
Then don’t worry about Pranayama. My biggest concern is that you not force it, especially something like holding the breath. It’s important to remember to build Pranayama in stages. First, we develop equal inhale and exhale with no holds. The idea is to reach slow, complete breathing with both inhale and exhale the same length. Second stage, practice increasing the length of your exhale, building the breath into 1:2 ratio (exhale twice as long as inhale).
My suggestion is, become comfortable with those practices before you move to anything more challenging. Pranayama is extremely profound and speeds up transformation even in those accomplished at Asana and/or meditation. In the mean time it sounds like your meditation is giving you quite a bit. In the most
gentle way possible, see if you can add the mild forms of Pranayama without creating any resistance or discomfort.
Q: I recently began a simple pranayama practice. Can you describe the effect of holding the breath on the mind?
A: The mind’s first response to holding the breath is to speed up, to get more active. When Pranayama is done yogically (body stable, mind calm and at ease) then holding the breath internalizes the mind. Longer holds create more challenge for the mind to remain quiet. When you are sufficiently prepared for it longer holds are deeply transformative and meditative. The energetics of the holds change depending on if you’re holding after inhale, holding after exhale.
Q: When I start low and breath up into my chest I tend to get a fuller breath. That’s the type of practice I normally do. When I start higher and move the breath lower, I seem to have a very difficult time moving the breath deeply into my lower diaphragm area. Should I force? Which is better?
A: Both breathing methodologies are valid. I recommend one that you’ve been practicing to help soothe and balance the system. The other approach is more energizing and is atomically more supportive during the practice of postures.
Q: Can you explain about the significance of the specific ratios in Pranayama. What type of ratios create what type of effect?
Think of it as this way: a technique is either Brahmana or Langhana. “Brahmana” means “to accelerate, expand, empowered”.
The effect of Langhana is to reduce, slow down, quiet, and calm. The main thing to know is that when you inhale it’s Brahmana, and when you hold your breath after inhale it’s even more Brahmana. When you exhale it’s Langhana, and hold after exhale is even more Langhana.
Q: I use 1:2 breathing to help still my mind. How is it different from meditation?
A: The 1:2 breathing is a form of Pranayama, which is different than meditation. In Meditation as the mind becomes more and more quiet, the breath will naturally become equal. Inhale and exhale will both be extremely shallow, but equal. 1:2 breathing (where the exhale is 2 times slower) is a preparation for deeper states but is not the same thing.