At the beginning of August, I attended a transformative pranayama retreat, hosted by my teachers Ron Reid and Marla Joy from Downward Dog Yoga Studio and taught by their pranayama teacher, Sudhir Tiwari. It included pranayama preparation techniques, which are called kriyas, pranayama techniques, meditations and lectures by Sudhir.
Sudhir’s knowledge of Ayurveda, asana histories, sutras and pranayama was obvious and transmitted with clarity, gentle calmness and humble wisdom. The lectures were such a clear transmission of the knowledge of pranayama, Ayurveda and the science behind it, there was no dogma, flowery or egoist interpretations, it was simply a teaching of one of the limbs of yoga (pranayama), by someone who had a lifetime of teaching and understanding. He explained this type of teaching as the basic and clear foundation of sharing of knowledge of the practice. Sudhir, the director of KaivalyaDham, Canada, comes from the lineage of Swami Kuvalayananda’s KaivalyaDhma Yoga Institute in India where he grew up and received his advance yogic and ayurvedic training from Swami Digambarji and from his father, Shir. O. Tiwari, who is a well-known master of Pranayama and Director of the KaivalyaDham Yoga Institute in India.
He explained that, to create a clear foundation, the sharing must have 3 things.
“Like a sutra, the shortest explanation that captures the universal essence with no room for misinterpretation.”
To do this takes a really deep and personal understanding of something, which Sudhir offered with a deep sense of humbleness and practicality.
This being my first comprehensive journey into really understanding pranayama from someone who offers a clear sense of wholeness to the practice as he is also an Ayurveda practitioner. He was able to monitor our pulses individually to give us an individual pranayama prescription that was most suitable to each person. After experiencing the power of my own prescription to transform aspects of my life so clearly after a couple of months, I can now truly understand the importance of working with someone who has the background to be able to diagnose and prescribe, it is a truly powerful tool for finding whole balance.
Pranayama is a way to bring calmness to the mind and clear dis-ease from the body.
Breath is a much more powerful tool than we give it credit for in our lives. Most of us have lost the ability to even breathe fully or properly, let alone maintain a high quality of breath throughout the day. With breath we can control our emotions, we can bring presence to any situation we are in, it creates spaciousness to allow us to respond appropriately to life around us. Breath also brings in vital energy to our bodies that is part of our life force.
We must learn to be conscious of the quality of this life force that we are bringing in, the length and depth of breath, the evenness, and an awareness of how it is changing throughout the day. For example, if we are to get upset, do we notice our breath becoming short and shallow and quick, and are we then able to return our attention to smooth it out again, giving us the space to be present in the situation more thoughtfully?
The more awareness we have of our breath, the more thoroughly we breathe, and the higher the quality of life force we will have. Food is another way we can enhance our vital life force, it is the other external energy that we bring into our bodies and transform into vital life force. This is why it is important to learn to breathe and eat consciously with high quality.
Pranayama is an amazing tool; there are different types of exercises, for all kinds of conditions, for heating and cooling, for balancing, for helping with asthma, for helping with sinuses, parasites, fever, excessive hunger or thirst, migraines, enlargement of the spleen, bloating, energy levels, balancing out vata, pita or kalpha conditions.
Each day, Sudhir also took our pulse diagnosis so by the end of the three days he was able to meet with us each individually to offer a pranayama prescription, along with other Ayurveda and personal practice recommendations. I have been doing my daily prescription of pranayama for almost 3 months now, and even within the first month I noticed vast differences. For yogis this daily practice is called sādhanā, a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal.
I am no longer waking up with headaches, migraines have gone from many times a month to maybe one, my inner peace and confidence, or sense of ease I should say, have found an open and grounded place. After having an idea of how I would like my life to transform but being unable to commit to even which country to call home, I am finding a clearer sense of direction. My intentions are coming to fruition rather then being abstract in time. I am having a sense of walking forward in my life with more sure-footedness.
I believe this is all due to the building of my personal prana, energy from breath, being more seated in my center; I am able to be more present driving my bus, so to speak.
Doing it daily is allowing a transformation to take place; it is allowing a new, more consistent vibrational frequency to occur.
If you would like to experience a weekend of workshops with Sudhir Tiwari, Downward Dog Studios in Toronto will be hosting him Nov 20,21,and 22nd.