Friday, February 13, 2009

Clear sinuses

I have been keeping my pranayama practice for a month now. I started a month ago with a 15-minute practice, and now I am up to 30 minutes. The main effect I have noticed is that my sinuses are much clearer now than they were a month ago. Just two weeks ago I probably used eight or 10 tissues during a half-hour practice. This morning I used two. The Anunasika or Nasal Cleansing Breath is the pranayama that is most responsible for clearing my sinues.

This is very helpful for me, as I tend to have worse allergies during the winter when the furnace is running. I keep the air circulating all the time, and change the filters often, but even so I am prone to sinus infections.  

I am starting to feel some of the emotional and mental effects of pranayama as well.  I feel calmer, my mind clearer. It is easier to concentrate. I especially enjoy when I have time in the morning to practice before work.  It's a great way to clear my mind for the start of the day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meditation for back care

I'm in my fourth week of chiropractic care. I have discovered the secret to a successful chiropractic visit: meditate for 20 to 30 minutes before my appointment. Before my last visit, I reclined the seat in my car and meditated for half an hour before I went in.  On a previous visit, I put in my headphones and meditated in a chair in the waiting room for 20 minutes before she called me. Both times my chiropractor said my spine had good mobility, and that I was doing very well. Before I started meditating first, she commented that I was difficult to adjust because of my tight muscles. So from now on I'll try to get to work half an hour earlier than usual so that I can leave work early and meditate before my chiro appointments.

Meditation has also helped the pain, at least one time.  One day last week I was having a bad pain day. I took a long, hot bath, which usually helps, but this time the pain was still there even after the bath. I finally got myself to meditate for half an hour. During the meditation I concentrated on sending energy to the places that hurt, and after the meditation the pain was gone! I have experienced lessening of pain during a meditation (as well as an increase in pain), but I have never had pain go away entirely and remain gone after a meditation!

Meditation is turning out to serve as an indicator of my progress, as well. At the place where I meet other meditators for weekly meditation, we sit in hard plastic chairs--the kind that are often sold as deck furniture. I have gotten in the habit of bringing a small pillow to put under my lumbar spine to ease the pressure there. Even then, as my muscles relax during the hour-long meditation, I often find that I become aware that I am not sitting straight in the chair and need to adjust my position. And I feel a strong need to crack my neck and back. I know I shouldn't move during meditation, but I usually end up bending my neck to the side to crack it at least once during the hour. 

Last night I never felt the urge to crack my neck. Not once, either during or after the meditation. Halleluiah! I did feel the need to readjust my position once. Hopefully this need, too, will disappear if my chiropractor is able to correct the scoliosis in my spine. But it was lovely to lose track of time because I didn't feel the need to crack my spine.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Daily Pranayama practice

My Pranayama practice continues apace. I have fallen into a nice little 30-minute routine. I'm working from an old DVD called Pranayama For Health and Wellbeing, which sadly seems to be out of print. I have been focusing primarily on the cleansing Pranayamas included on the video. My routine varies somewhat, but generally runs as follows:

I start with about a 30-50 rounds (each breath is one round) of Kapalabhati, or Skull Shining Breath.

Then I do Breath of Fire through the right nostril, while keeping the left nostril closed, for three minutes. I follow this with Breath of Fire through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed, also for three minutes.

Finally I do about five minutes of Breath of Fire through both nostrils.

Note: Kapalabhati and Breath of Fire are similar, but not the same. In Kapalabhati the emphasis is on a strong exhale, and there is a passive inhale. The inhale and exhale do not need to be of the same length. In Breath of Fire the emphasis is on keeping the inhale and exhale of the same length.

Then I often do something the DVD calls Anunasika Pranayama. This consists of taking a deep breath, then blowing it out through the nostrils in a series of exhales until the lungs are empty. I do this six times through both nostrils, then six times through the right nostril only, then six times through the left nostril only, and finally six times through both nostrils. This one is very cleansing: I usually go through several tissues during it!

I follow this with Kukkura Pranayama, or the Dog Pant Breath. I do four sets of 20 rounds (breaths) each. Kneeling in Vajrasana, you put your hands on the floor in front of your knees, stick out your tongue, and pant from the abdomen.

Finally, I finish my practice with Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing.

I did this practice 4 days last week, and 5 the week before. I really feel drawn to the cleansing pranayamas right now. Firstly because I'm just getting back into a consistent pranayama practice, and I figure I need cleansing. But also because I tend to have more allergy problems in the winter, so anything that cleans out my sinuses is probably beneficial.

My back has been doing better. The pain is either non-existent or very manageble. However, I still have to take it very easy. I went shopping last Saturday afternoon and was pretty sore the next day. So as long as I take it easy I'm fine. While I miss my physical yoga practice, it is actually nice to have the time now to focus on a pranayama practice, which I had been wanting to do more of, anyway.