There is an urgency in the air to fix what’s wrong in our hearts, to correct the imbalances between man and nature, to get it right. The urgency is real – it really is time to clean up the environment, save the bees, and start acting from our hearts – but the solution itself has no urgency in it.
The solution is love– the energy of healing, coherent geometry, rainbows and waterfalls. It is the embrace of the Mother for the child, it is a gentle walk through nature; it is the breeze blowing in your hair, the fragrance of a flower, the motion of a flower blooming.
And so, while it really is necessary for you to get out there and do something, set your intention and help the world, the best thing to start that process is calling in the coherent energy of love. As you bring it into yourself, you are able to move and act with compassion and discretion.
Pranayama is the yogic practice of breath control, used to calm the mind and heal the nervous system. Most well known is probably nadi shodana – the cleansing of the nadis, or alternate nostril breathing. Practice by inhaling through the Left nostril, exhaling through the Right, inhaling through the Right, exhaling through the Left and continuing, with pauses at each transition. The goal is not solely to slow down the breath, but to extend the breath by making it the same intensity throughout. I refer to this as creating a uniform “width” in the breath – allowing the breath to carry the same volume of air in the beginning, middle and end of your exhale and/or inhale. Breath limitations mirror energetic limitations – you can see it in the loose exhale of an exasperated sigh, the quick inhale of an angry comment. Pranayama seeks a uniform width of the breath.
Pranayama also brings the breath into structure, asking the air to flow in certain geometric patterns or rhythms. Recurring patterns which mimic nature and its rhythms are soothing to the nervous system; hence the breathing pattern initiates a peaceful structure for the body and its circulation, organs and tissues.
Now for something a little different: Add an intention to your pranayama practice. This will summon your imagination and psychic senses to heal and clear your body. You can add emotional qualities to the breath – inhale soothing energy (L nostril), exhale agitation (R nostril). Inhale healing (L nostril), exhale distractions (R nostril). Conveniently, the Right and Left nostrils have deities associated with them (Ida and Pingala), and they have qualities you can use in your visualizations. Ida (Left nostril) is the moon – subconscious, tranquil, peaceful. Pingala (Right nostril) is the sun – energetic, enthusiastic, fiery.
In its normal cycle, the breath moves predominantly through one nostril or the other, alternating from Left to Right and back again at 20 minute intervals throughout the day. This accounts for periods of action (Right nostril) and rest (Left nostril) in your activities. If you are reading this article, your Left nostril is probably dominating. The Left nostril rules relaxation, reading, and reflection. Go ahead and check it out: breathe through only the L nostril and feel it moving easily in and out. Then breathe only through the R nostril, it might be slightly more congested, less easy to move the air through. If your L nostril were not dominant, you’d be up and running about doing something.
If the nostrils don’t change in their alternation, you feel a debilitation of that energy. Fire (Right nostril) for too long a duration turns enthusiasm to annoyance, agitation, anger. Peace (Left nostril) for too long a duration turns tranquility into lethargy, depression, inertia.
Add imagery that enhances your experience. Inhale excitement for the next project (R nostril), exhale depression that it’ll never happen (L nostril). Inhale self-empowerment (R nostril), exhale yesterday’s conclusions and judgments about it all (L nostril).
When you have attuned your emotions to a proper state of heart energy using the imagery, you can graduate to a mantra. Inhale (MAA, the energy of the Mother), exhale (OM, the energy of the whole Universe moving). Inhale (SO), exhale (HUM). Or many infinite number of variations.
Adding melody to the mantra and breath practice is a beautiful way to extend its reach (I can only practice pranayama for 20-30 minutes at a stretch). Chanting can be done for hours at a time and if the melody is beautiful, you won’t even feel like it’s “good for you.” Ideally if you practice the mantra well, it will resound in your world for hours afterwards – the muffler on the car will sound like ‘Om’ to you, the phone ringing will sound like ‘Radhe Radhe Radhe!’ The Universe will breathe its sounds and melodies in an endless display of love. In this way, you can work with the Universe, co-creating a world of peace and harmony, so urgently needed at this time. Jai Ma.
Photo: © Merrick Chase, Telluride Photography, Taken at the 2010 Telluride Yoga Festival
Wah! has been making music for the yoga world for 25 years and published books on yoga and healing. Wah! teaches women’s leadership training, sound healing workshops, yoga teacher training, and performs Healing Concerts in planetariums and theaters across the country.