My Experience of Breath & Beyond

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

After her first meditation in “Learn to Meditate,” one student said she’s normally a very shallow breather.  Indicating her upper chest, she said she always breathed “up here.”  During meditation, her breaths were much deeper and full, down to her belly.  This had never happened to her before.  The next day she emailed that she would be practicing meditation faithfully every day.

How can something so simple have so much effect?  Yet it does.  Arriving irritable and distant, avoiding eye contact, a client came to learn Ujjayi Pranayama in a private session with me.  She announced she was already familiar with Ujjayi Pranayama.  As we proceeded, she learned Swami Nirmalananda’s protocol for Ujjayi Pranayama.  Of course, she had a wonderful rest in Shavasana.  She yawned and yawned, obviously releasing tensions.  Afterwards she reported less stress, more relaxation, no more mid-body pain.  Most dramatically, she left smiling, eyes bright, inspired.

I practice many forms of yoga — seva, cleaning (doing what needs to be done), study of ancient texts, chanting, asana, japa and meditation.  All move me ever deeper into Self.  It’s reliable!  Mental cobwebs dissolve, allowing the light of capital-S Self to illuminate inner aspects of my small-s self.  Regular Ujjayi Pranayama practice opens me inward to this deeper awareness.

Recently, in the midst of a dental extraction, I thought of my childhood.  Although I was treated with much genuine love and care, certain things happened that affect my adult life and still need attention.  I asked myself, why do I need this extraction? The answer came: I am ready.  Some of these issues, I’ve both purposefully and unknowingly avoided looking at them for my entire life.  How freeing it is, even though difficult, to face them now at age 64.  Regarding Ujjayi Pranayama and its power, our June Teachings Article describes:

UjjayiUjjayi Pranayama heals your body, mind and heart, while it opens up profound dimensions of spiritual experience, its true purpose… Ujjayi Pranayama prepares you for the mystical experience that opens up in the pause between your breaths… “When you’re in that momentary suspension, an easy place of profound stillness, you’re ready to explore within.”  — Breath & Beyond by Swami Nirmalananda & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Looking at the hard stuff I’ve avoided so long, I hear Swami’s words, “Awareness is the first step towards change.” Thus, I was driving along yesterday, feeling fully blissful — in a place so much deeper than the interior swirl of small-s stuff.  Marveling at the burst of green and aliveness in nature, I felt the limitless, infinite reality of the universe.  Loving all that is manifest, I felt the bliss of my own being.  I understood how I become freer with every practice.  I felt my life force expanding more fully.  I resonated with how Breath & Beyond explains this “beyond” that our breathing practice opens us to:

The Sanskrit word “pranayama” does not mean “breath” or “breathing practice.”  A compound word, “prana” (life force) and “ayama” (to free, to liberate), it names the purpose of the practice — freeing your life force to expand fully.

What joy! I’ll keep doing more yoga.

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