Friday, November 6, 2009

204/309 - Alternate Nostril Breathing

Tuesday Off
Wednesday 6:30 pm with Sherry
Thursday 8:15 pm with Amy

Wednesday's class was pretty strong. I don't think I missed any of the poses. I had some trouble with the last part of Awkward pose, but felt better in the second set when my knee finally cracked. I'm also having some congestion problems, and it's having an impact on the forward bends and the spine strengthening series. Sherry brought me some tissues, which was a trifle embarrassing, and at another point, I was really stuffed up and having trouble with breath, and she asked whether I was OK, so it must have been really obvious.

Tonight's class was better, but harder. It wasn't actually hotter than usual. But it felt it, and I wasn't the only one feeling it. People were dropping all over the place. I cracked up in second set of Standing Bow, because Amy was encouraging people to turn it up at the end of the pose, and then she said by name "John and Duffy" because we were the only ones still trying at all. And then I laughed so hard that I fell out early too.

Instead of nasal congestion, tonight I had a slight cough. I still think its probably allergies, but sickness has been going around, so I'm not dismissing the possibility. This took a real toll in back strengthening. The cough became reflux, and I was basically spitting up liquid from Cobra through Full Locust. Not fun.

On the plus side, I had a really strong Triangle, even though I was feeling beat at the time. Sometimes, if I nail the set-up, the pose itself just seems to fit and becomes almost effortless. Or at least it seems effortless until its over, and I suddenly realize how hard I was working. And then, I did my best Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee in ages. Both legs straight and locked, back nicely curled, arms straight, and the posture felt good.

The day 278 meditation introduces a fourth breathing technique: alternate nostril breathing. Seated, with one hand on the lap, you put the other hand by your nose, so that the thumb can close one nostril and the fingers can close the other. This is just another aspect of the miracle of having opposable thumbs. Close the one nostril with the thumb, inhale. Switch the pressure so the thumb valve is open and the finger valve is closed. Exhale and then inhale. Switch the valves again. Exhale. That's one cycle. Do 10-20 cycles easily.

If feels really odd at first, but its not actually difficult. Gates says its a great way to gain focus, concentration, and relaxation. I wonder why. Maybe the strangeness of the feeling of breathing only through a single nostril makes it that much easier to center your attention on your breath. The very strangeness of it makes it an aid to concentration? This is another one I need to do for a while with some seriousness before i can really comment on it. I've tried it before when reading about it in books, but never for more than a minute or two.

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