Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Are you breathing? I mean, really breathing??

Amazing how easily we take for granted this most basic of bodily functions. But somehow, when it's May and everything's pink and lush and ready to burst open, the "prana" part of "pranayama" becomes a little more clear. It's easier to remember to breathe when everything's fresh and new and green and blooming.

Revisit a few breathing lessons courtesy of this fantastic article on pranayama over at Shambhala Sun. I've always grudgingly gone along with pranayama breathwork in yoga, too impatient to really want to focus on the breath in lieu of some fast and fluid asana. But then last spring I had the opportunity to study with Richard Rosen, Iyengar expert and all-around impressive guy (and humble as hell, might I note), who writes here that
If asana is the flashy favorite child that gets all our attention in the States, pranayama is the drab sibling we nearly ignored. The average American student is blissfully unaware of the central role that pranayama plays in the yogic process.
So very true. As much as we'd like to overlook pranayama in favor of sexier asana work, it can't be done; well, not for someone who's taking the practice seriously, that is. When we're 80 and can't do Downward Dog with ease anymore, the pranayama will still be there, right next to our racing minds. So we might as well sit with it for a few minutes and try to figure out what the hell it all means.

This sharp round-up on pranayama compares breath practices in yoga and three schools of Buddhism. Read it for thoughts on citta and mindfulness, Theraveda and Zen, and a few choice words from rockstars Suzuki Roshi and Pema Chodron. Then, toward the end, discover how you might use the breath in tonglen practice "as a medium for developing loving-kindness and compassion, for awakening a caring heart:"
Sending out wisdom with the out-breath and taking in confusion with the in-breath are the essence of this brave practice. This meditation involves contemplating the suffering of others and breathing it in, while exhaling peaceful well-being to limitless beings.

This is a powerful practice that fully embraces the challenges of living the non-aggressive life of a bodhisattva. Breathing—and synchronizing the breath with this deliberate contemplative practice of radiating limitless goodness—becomes a means for opening the heart, widening the sphere of our care and concern, and strengthening the resolve to help others. In this way, breathing serves as a vital link to discovering and embodying a compassionate heart.
Beautiful. Get your breath on, already.

Breathing Lessons (Shambhala Sun)


sfauthor said…
Nice posting. Do you know about these pranayama books?


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