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Season 3 - Episode 9

Viloma Breathing

30 min - Practice
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Increase your breath's and heart's capacity with this special technique of Viloma Pranayama (Interrupted Breathing). Patricia guides us through some simple Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana) variations to open the side and back body and and then we recline to allow a relaxed awareness. You will feel ready to sit for a long meditation.
What You'll Need: Blanket, Block


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Hey there, here we go. We're going to work with some interrupted breathing after a few asanas and just interrupted breathing just means pausing a little bit on your inhalation or exhalation and has a lot to offer to the growth of our awareness of how prana moves through us. So if you need height for your gomukhasana pose, which I'm already almost in, just bringing one leg under and the foot back to the other side and the other knee comes more or less on top, if you bring your foot across and that's as far as your body will go with this, you might do well just to support the leg like that. We love our little blocks but it lets the pelvis and the hip relax. If however you can get around into your gomukhasana then you can work with a couple of stretches here. So the first one we're going to do is a forward fold and opening of the chest. The forward fold comes from the imagination of this upper body being like an eagle or a garuda and the exhalation as you come forward you're moving your sternum back, bowing your head deeply down, emptying and then as you're ready to breathe in unfold your wings, bring the arms up as though they were wings, open and then as you come across you're going to take the opposite elbow, entwine your arms or cross if you're unable to entwine the arms. Exhaling, bowing forward. At the end of the exhalation start coming back up, open your arms again, up and across. Let's do that a second time. Entwining forward, bowing your head and neck, exhale completely. The back body gets opened, more space for the back of the heart. Inhale like a bird getting ready for flight, opening, exhale one more time that opposite elbow across. Inhale if you need one and then exhale and come forward. Inhale, reach out and up. And then we can take a side bend here, you can place your left hand on the floor, that is if your left leg is on top and swing your right arm up and then side bending over, bending the supporting arm elbow if you need to and side bending over. And there's often a lateral movement that you can give, a sideways movement arcing the ribs even further as you're going over to the side. If it's more comfortable on your neck to look down, do so or perhaps it feels good and more opening to a place you want to open to look up. You decide and then inhale and sweep back up, exhale let the arm come down. Now we're going to move into a forward bend and I'm going to have you open your forward bend position up a little bit. You bring your lower shin bone onto the knee and support your leg if it needs it. Perhaps your leg will relax quite far down in which case you don't need to support it. Perhaps your leg is quite high here because of some stiffness or tightness in the hip. Please support it up. You'll notice right away that there's a lot of relief in the hip joint not having to hold the heavy leg up. What I like about bringing the leg across this way is that the impetus is from my left knee towards my right knee and that helps to keep the space open between the upper and lower leg bones. Then as you come forward, placing the hands beside to the outside of the knee and the foot, coming forward, just see how far your body will let you go. Maybe a little ways, maybe not. But you hang out there and you can even push down into this block with your knee and then let go of the push. Then try a little experiment of sitting up just a little bit and remove the block and see if your leg has relaxed a little bit. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If it has, still give it some support. Give yourself that support and release down again. Again, maybe just a little bit and maybe a ways hands can come out front if you like. Tune into the flow of your breath. Tune into allowing for some release. Not taking the breath in, but allowing it. Then begin to walk your hands back before sitting up so your hands can support you.

Allow your head and neck to remain stretching. So releasing the back of the neck until you're pretty much all the way vertical and then let your head come back to center. I like to keep the eyes open here. You might try that. I mean closed actually. There's something internal that wants to be touched and felt. Sometimes that happens more easily if the eyes are closed. Then open your eyes, lean back a little bit, lift off the top leg, stretch the other, unfold the other leg and stretch it out. So you might want to massage your knees a little bit. If you're using height, back up onto the height. We'll tuck the left leg under this time since we had the right leg under before. Bringing the right leg across. Just pause a moment here. Does your leg want to easily wrap across or does your leg not? If not, support it so that everything can let go. Sometimes we don't realize how much we need support until we have it. So I encourage you to give that to yourself. So I'm going to come across and I'm going to take this side bend first. So swinging the left arm up to stretch away from the left hip really can create quite a strong stretch down there in that outer left hip. And depending on what your body is easy with, that's where you stop. Into a certain level of intensity where you can still breathe and soften. You can still just be and allow that stretch to do its work on you. As I mentioned on the other side, there's a lateral movement you can make with your rib cage to help open not only the outer ribs but the area along your spine. So it's not a straight side bend. You're allowing a lateral movement. It can be quite sweet. And then inhale, bring your arm up and down again. And for the forward bend version of it, we're going to bring the block back around if you need it. I move the Gomukhasana knee a little bit away from the midline and bring just above the ankle bone on the other leg, across and allow the impetus of this movement of the weight of the leg to help open the inside of your knee compartment. And then you might need some height here. You might need more than you've got. So I don't really need quite that much, but if I give it to myself, an abundance of support and I release forward, oftentimes it helps if you let your belly move back and your sacrum drops back a little bit as you come forward. That'll help to soften the spine and soften the hip joint coming forward. And hang out here for just a little bit before testing and seeing if the leg has relaxed enough to drop it down. I'm thinking that mine might have. It has. How about yours? And maybe just a 45 degree angle out and down is just right for you.

Maybe just staying upright. So you really have to find out the place to be on your own and then hang out there for a little bit. Breathing. The breath comes anyway, but when we bring our attention to it, it tends to get smoother, softer, and we feel the benefit of the breath expanding into parts of the body. Breathing. Breathing. You're going to start walking your hands back. And as you walk your hands back closer to your legs and your body, your torso, you're gradually coming up. You know, maybe you can move faster coming up and that's fine, but sometimes faster is not better. So when I studied with Gita Iyengar many years ago, I remember her saying something like, activation is important. And so is pacification. So it's a, you go back and forth between activating and pacifying and all the wrinkles get smoothed out of the nervous system. Okay. So stretching your legs out, taking your time with that, maybe rubbing the legs or bouncing the legs up and down just to get some circulation back into, you know, your knee, your knee joint is getting a good strong squeeze like when you squeeze your hand or fist. And I don't know if you'll be able to see the coloring, but when I opened my hand, my fingers are all white and then pretty soon they're pink again. So you squeeze and squeeze out all the bad and then open up and get fresh circulation. It's one of the main benefits of the physiological benefits of yoga practice. Okay. Well, I think we're ready to lie down and work with the reclining Viloma practice. Viloma means I think against the hair and it's a practice where you, either on inhalation or exhalation, we're going to practice it on inhalation, where you imagine breathing in partway up, partway full and then pause for just a couple of seconds and then maybe again a second time and then the third time you should be full. Okay. So I'm going to set up the lying down position in such a way that I think I don't need this bolster. I'm going to extend this blanket out all the way so that I'm not partly on the mat and partly the rug or the carpet. And once you've got that all set, you're going to lie down in a shavasana and keep one of the blocks quite near you because that can be used to support your head up and get a stretch on the back of the neck while you're in the pose. Take your time getting settled, lengthen down through your back body so you feel long and one leg out at a time straight out releasing down from the tops of your thighs as you let the legs down. Sometimes it's helpful to take the arms overhead to a little stretching and then bring your arms back down. I'm keeping my feet flexed for now. Why don't you try that flexed with the toes pulling back towards the hips after we get the arms set we'll release the feet. So widen the arms out about a 45 degree angle and rotate your palms so they're facing your face and bring the arms down so that the thumb side of the hand touches the floor first and then relax. And now with the feet just point and flex and then let go, let go, let go. Usually the feet will turn out. It might be useful to look down your body and to see that they're equally placed from the midline. And since you've lifted up to look, bring your hands to the back of your skull and as you're placing your head down stretch the back of your neck so that your chin is maybe slightly lower than your forehead and we've got that sense of the wave coming up from the back and down the face towards the heart. If however the back of your neck tends to just for one reason or another your chin ends up high that might feel normal and it's not a problem but I'd like to see that the neck, the positioning of the head allows for a slight downward movement of the forehead so you can place a block or a blanket back under the skull for this practice.

So lying here just let your breathing find a normal pace whatever normal is right now. When I use the word normal breathing I'm talking about not guiding the breath, not manipulating the breath in any way. Normal changes from moment to moment but what is constant about normal is that you're not manipulating the breath. So this helps you to settle. This helps your awareness to become more acute. So in this practice we're going to work with pauses with the in breath and the first couple of times we do it we're only going to pause kind of a roundish in the middle so you'll breathe in thinking about it taking about two seconds. Right now you're still just letting the breath be normal as I explain this. You'll be bringing a breath in only about halfway or slightly less giving that about two to three seconds and then you'll pause your breath just for a couple of seconds it's not very long and then you'll let your breath fill in again up to 85 or 90 percent. So releasing and letting go of this out breath that you're on or about to be letting go and at the end of your out breath imagine bringing the breath into your upper abdomen and lower ribs middle of the chest and then pause one two inhale again up to 85 or 90 percent pause again for a second or two transition into letting the breath out let the breath the belly slide downward releasing the lower belly first and then your chest. Now just take a few resting normal breaths whatever normal is this allows your awareness to examine to feel and notice what you've just done. Usually when we're concentrating on doing something we're not as aware of what's happening as when we're doing nothing so you're training your awareness alright so at the end of this next exhalation we'll do that same practice again when you're ready you'll inhale spreading the lower ribs a little bit not so much from the belly now time to pause a couple of seconds and then fill the upper part of the chest 85 or 90 percent eyes and brain pouring down towards this now lifted heart that's that pause there at the end and then exhale letting the belly release first and then the ribs and chest back to unregulated breathing now I want to point out that there's another moment of non-doing with each pause you've got two pauses happening right now one in the middle and then one when you've finished breathing in and it's not like you're sitting there lying there you know twiddling your thumbs during that pause you can actually notice a lot and if you feel certain tensions from the practice of breathing in and stopping you can really there's time to actually notice that and and to adjust and let go it's amazing what can happen in a couple of seconds so let's do that practice again normal inhale maybe a slightly prolonged exhale to prepare you eyes and brain coming down as the breath comes up two or three seconds worth pause a couple of seconds but do you notice inhale again maybe a longer pause here really drop into the awareness and release belly lower ribs chest after a couple of more cycles of resting breaths of awareness breaths we'll do one last Viloma I will talk you through pausing twice before the third inhalation so that you actually will have three pauses two in the middle and one at the end but if you feel like one pause in the middle of the breath is enough plus the one at the end and that's how you do this don't don't feel like I mean I'm not going to notice I'm not going to give you approval nor disapproval I want you to do what's right for yourself I approve of that okay so letting out this breath bringing the breath into the lower ribs pause filling to the middle pause what are you noticing filling up the heart space not too full pausing let go before it becomes an emergency easy gentle release and again back to a normal flow of breathing which might start out as a bigger wave smaller wave the second breath third and fourth breaths coming back to a nice easy pace once that happens you can remove the block or the blanket out from behind your head when you do that bring your hands both up even though you don't really need to lift your head with your hands do so and hold your head with one hand set the block aside hold your head with both hands keep the back of your neck releasing lengthening lie your head down let your hands go back down into shavasana and just continue to let your awareness circulate with these new sensations after that practice staying in shavasana for another minute or two I'm going to come up because I want to say one or more to one or two more things but I want you to stay in your shavasana so awareness does not come automatically during the movement of pranayama it comes by allowing breaks in the activity so I mentioned that and what it happens is it makes each particular separate pranayama cycle fresh and it allows chitta and the prana to move together so chitta is this whole mind field that we exist in heart mind field that we exist in and the life force the prana that moves through they move together and when they do the prana fills us more completely and we feel whole and you know even though physiologically you could possibly jump ahead and do two or three voloma breaths in a row in the beginning just be patient with the pauses the normal breaths so that you're not disturbing your nervous system so take that in for a few moments and then deepen the cycle of your breath in preparation for moving if you prefer to stay in shavasana that's fine if you're ready to come up you can roll over to your side on your right side and then come up into sitting and we'll close the practice so thank you for being patient with yourself and giving yourself this gift of of awareness because with awareness comes the awakening to the compassionate heart first for ourselves and then for others amaste thank you very much


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