January 30, 2008
Making Something Old, New Again
With the start of 2008, my main focus seems to be looking for new ways to do the same old things...to breathe new life into a predictable routine. Mountain biking? Yeah, I've been doing this for years now, but lately, I'd been experimenting a lot - doing night lone races, planning on doing an epic ride (I don't do epic rides. I'm more of a technical single-track rider) and not just riding, but constantly pushing it with every pedal stroke on flats and climbs (thanks to UPM Danny for that advice). I've also been doing multi-day hikes loading my backpack with the most weight I can carry (it's good training). Food? I make sure I can recycle leftovers into a new delectable dish indefinitely until it gets finished. With this paradigm, everything old is new again...like getting a new lease on life...of discovering something new in something that's been in front of me the whole time.
Yoga? Hmmm....since I got the Bryan Kest dvd, it has always been a choice between any of his 3 programs. It's come to a point it's already mechanical...a mindless motion of poses and breathing. Furthermore, I don't think I have progressed with my yoga. At best, I have maintained where I am. To put it bluntly, I'm in a yoga rut...time for a change...time to go back to basics for a refresher and regain perspective. I went back into my Sivananda Yoga book and started reading it all over again. It's a good place to start. I came upon the pranayama section and was intrigued. Hey, why not just do pranayama? no asanas, just pranayama from the basic Kapalabhati to the advanced Bhastrika?
What is Pranayama?
Prana is what the yogis call the subtle life energy that sustains us. Pranayama is the methodical breathing process that optimizes ingestion, retention and absorption of prana. There are specific techniques from beginner to advanced. The yogis make a dire warning though of practising advanced pranayama when the practitioner is not ready. Think: a 9-volt bulb experiencing a 30-volt surge.
"...a seeker who dares to awaken the kundalini power without the grace and guidance of a guru might become insane, succumb to diseases, or even die."
Kinds of Pranayama
While seated in a half-lotus facing the mountain ridge, I started off with the Kapalabhati...something I'm already used to...then progressed to the Anuloma Viloma, Brahmari then Sitkari. It was after the Sitkari that I started having the chills (don't ask me why). I had to pause, fix myself a hot drink and continued my session, this time, wrapped in a bundled blanket. I proceeded with Sithali and went on to the advanced breathing exercises: the 3 Bandhas (Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Moola), Ujjayi, Surya Bheda, Samanu and finally the Bhastrika.
Throughout the process, I went through a menagerie of breathing techniques and varied sensory perceptions - fully emptying the lungs, breathing through the nose, expanding the chest then the abdomen, retaining the breath, exhaling through the left nostril and inhaling through the right, vice-versa, rapid and forceful exhalation, inhaling and contracting the perineum muscles, breathing with chakra visualization, exhaling and then pulling up the abdomen and back towards the spine (see cover picture), etc.
At the end, I was left exhausted. I'd been essentially hyper-ventilating for nearly half the day. Upon doing one final pose, the corpse (mandatory in yoga), I fell asleep and woke up a few minutes after. Feeling completely relaxed, I took a walk. Surprisingly, my energy level was topped-up. Despite my fitness and regular workout habits, it's not everyday I get this energy level. I saw the Igorot stone-walls and suddenly, I wanted to do tricking (the informal name of a relatively new underground alternative sport movement, combining martial arts, gymnastics, breakdancing and other performing arts to create an "aesthetic blend of flips, kicks, and twists.")!
Reinventing something old to make it new again...a phoenix rising out of its ashes...life never ceases to fascinate...the more I try to find out, the more I learn and the more I'm left insatiable. With that morning pranayama experience, I was given a glimpse of just how powerful this undertaking is. With mindful breathing, a focused goal and an openness to inert forces (just awaiting a re-awakening), life has once again thrown a morsel of its magic.
*** I feel silly putting a disclaimer here, but DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME ***
(Feb 3, 2008) See!!!:) That's why you belong to that exclusive league of wiser and more mature men being talked about in that New York Times article "Staying a Step Ahead in Aging":) he!he!he! Kayo nila Daddy-o, Coach Bernie, Coach Kiko and Papadik.:) ha!ha!ha!
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