Pranayama practices for the Autumn Equinox

Submitted by Bijam on Tue, 23/09/2014 - 13:55

I'm creating this  post from my contribution to the teaching at the Autumn Equinox retreat we had at the weekend, September 19th to 21st.  As a small group of Satyananda teachers in Scotland 5 of us (and a warmly welcomed Sivananda teacher) contributed sessions to the retreat held in the most beautiful setting, on the Isle of Skye, with views of the Black Cuillins from one side and of the Red Cuillins from the other.  We were blessed with beautiful weather and a walking meditation on Sunday was exquisite. 

My session took as its basis the links between Ayurveda, the Vedic science of healing both body and mind, and Yoga, the Vedic science of Self-realization.   Ayurveda and Yoga are considered to be sister sciences and the link between them is PRANA or life-force. So my session involved breathing and pranayama practices.   

Ayurveda is based on the five elements or tattwas, expressed in the body as the doshas.  We all have a doshic constitution at birth, and the balance changes as we grow, mature, and age.  The doshas vary not just by age, but also by time of day.

The kapha sections 6-10 am and pm are the most stable.  For better or worse, our deepest habits are established in these time periods – maybe that’s the origin of the old saying “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”.  Hopefully that applies to women too!   The morning kapha period is ideal for yoga practice, with the evening time being next best.

Pitta energy in the daytime, 10-2 am, aids our ability to focus and concentrate.  Pitta energy is needed for digestion therefore Ayurveda recommends that we take our main meal between those daytime hours.  Pitta energy between 10 pm and 2 am may be responsible for fridge-raiding munchies, so best to be asleep before this happens!

Vata dosha, the least stable, predominates between 2pm – 10 pm and 10 pm -2 am.  We may be prone to changeable moods and impulsiveness, but also are at our most creative.  And as vata governs elimination, this may be connected with night time trips to the toilet, especially as one gets older, which is dominated by vata.

The doshas also vary by season.   Autumn is the vata season - the most unstable element, subject to variability, bringing creativity, but also easily upset, perhaps being involved in impulsivity and mood swings, with anxiety as a symptom of what is sometimes called vata derangement!

The practices I taught were for calming.  The slower and more controlled the breath, the more prana we cultivate.  Find the stillness in the pause between breaths.

1. Chaturdik pranam mudra (Swami Pragyamurti’s book) – salutations (Oms x 3) to the four directions.

2. Savasana, letting the breath find its own length and rhythm

3. Relax and breathe – a vata calming practice, in savasana.  Raising and lowering arms with the breaths.

INHALE = EXHALE                                5 rounds

INHALE-HOLD-EXHALE                       5 rounds

INHALE-HOLD-EXHALE-HOLD OUT      5 rounds

Then pause in savasana at end, reflecting on effect of practice, aware of grounding & stabilising.

4. Sit up in vajrasana. 3 x Mukha bhastrika – crow’s beak breath, whoosh out (no breathing in, just continuous interrupted exhale until lungs empty) as bend forward, observe spontaneous suspension of breath.

5. Healing breaths: hasta mudra pranayama.  Mudras to connect with abdominal, AAH; mid-chest OOO; and upper chest breath MMM, then OM with Brahma mudra.

6. Nadi sodhana stage 1 x 3 rounds

7. Vayu mudras and chants.