I’m a late bloomer when it comes to doing yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. If you are a person who likes to be active, both mentally and physically, if might take you awhile – perhaps lifetimes – to settle down enough to savour the sweetness of these practices.
Until till then, you’ll be like an untrained puppy, bucking the leash. Probably more like me till more recently.
This morning, at the end of my physical yoga practice, in a lying down position, I played with lengthening my inhalations and exhalations. “Play” is the operative word here because I knew that any imposition of my will, any force I might have used, would undermine the invitation to the breath to flow.
This passive attitude is 180 degrees from being goal-directed. I can’t think of a word for it. What you do in pranayama is go with the breath. Side-by-side. You’re not standing in front pulling on the breath or behind pushing it, but being with it.
Then maybe something interesting, even magical can happen. I had a most delicious experience of my breath opening up into some pauses that just went on, seemingly with no beginning or end. And then the next phase of the breath would just come along without looking for it.
There’s a beautiful quote from The Radiance Sutras book* I mentioned the other day:
The breath flows in and just as it turns
To flow out, there is a flash of pure joy —
Life is renewed.
Awaken into that.