“How many breaths have you taken so far in your life?”
Hello and Happy Monday,
This is our last week focusing on Pranayama and my 52nd week of writing this weekly blog! I am extremely proud of myself for showing up each week for an entire year to focus on yoga. Writing this blog has been an incredible outlet for me and the responses I’ve received from you have been highlights for me during my week.
This past weekend I spent training with Gary Kraftsow in a workshop called “Yoga for Life”. Gary Kraftsow is the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute and teaches yoga therapeutics all over the world. His teachers are “THE” teachers of yoga - T. Krishnamacharya and his son, T. K. V. Desikachar. I’ve trained with Gary before taking his e-courses, Yoga Therapy for Depression course and most recently Essentials of Yoga Therapy. Both have been extremely valuable and I use what I have learned in every class I teach.
There was a big emphasis on pranayama this weekend and Gary reminded us of the what the Vedic people had believed: We have a finite number of breaths in our lives – when you are done, you die. I am not sure if I believe this, but I do know the benefits of slowing down my breath and am here to try.
On average we take about 15-20 breaths a minute. Let’s take the higher number and do some math. If there are 60 seconds in a minute, that means we take 20 breaths each minute. If we were to slow down our breath and take an inhale for the count of 5 (seconds) and exhale for the count of 5 (seconds), we would now take 6 breaths a minute. If we were able to slow down even more and take an inhale of 10 counts (seconds) and exhale for 10 counts (seconds), we could slow down to 3 breaths a minute – I hope you see where I am going with this…. Longer breath = more minutes to be ALIVE!
In order to do this, we know we don’t start with 10, we slowly work our way up. This is called Breath Threshold Capacity and it’s the duration of one full breath that can be sustained for a number of breaths. The classic measure is over 12 breaths. Mastery of a threshold is the ability to do several different ratios within that threshold of 12 times each.
What am I talking about, ratio?? The ratio is a proportional relation between parts of the breath. The parts of the breath are broken down into Inhale – Retention – Exhale – Suspension. For example – a typical pranayama practice I do is this:
This is not just a great way to focus but also to create breath capacity threshold. This practice is about 16 total breaths and takes a lot of concentration and intention. This is not something that becomes an easy habit, this is something that takes dedication and commitment.
There are only 3 rules to remember when practicing pranayama:
Thank you all!!