Because I previously wrote about becoming free from the mental and physical blocks that can squelch one’s spiritual essence and evolution, today’s short practice focuses on a pranayama meditation that helps one to connect with a sense of limitlessness. Although I have remained true to the core technique as taught by Yogi Bhajan, I do offer some additional suggestions to help you through the practice.
You will be seated throughout the meditation, so be sure to prop yourself for the sake of comfort and alignment. Even if you can sit cross-legged without a pillow or block, remain conscious of the gentle neck lock (chin pulled slightly in), and periodically check that your shoulders are relaxed.
First, create the arm mudras that comprise the “energy directors” of this set: When we hold our body or any of its parts at specific angles to the body and within the surrounding magnetic field, we shift and guide the flow of prana in and around us. Here, in your seated posture, bring your right arm in to your side, secured to the rib cage. Bend the arm to 90 degrees, so that the forearm extends forward, parallel to the floor, with the palm up. Now, place the left hand on the heart.
With your arm position set, breathe in through an “O”-shaped mouth; exhale through the nose. Breathe steadily and consciously in this way for 3-5 minutes.
Special note: The prescribed length of this pranayama section is 22 minutes. As this initially may seem interminable, grant yourself permission to shorten it substantially at first. You may, however, discover that the nature of the breath aids a great deal in quelling distracting thoughts; it is likely that you will be able to continue the pranayama for longer than you think.
After the first part of the practice, remain in the same seated and arm position. Change the pranayama to Breath of Fire through the O-shaped mouth: inhale and exhale rapidly, feeling the belly jumping. Ensure that your inhale and exhale, though quick, are equal in length. Continue for 2 minutes.
Next, switch the hand and arms to the other side: right hand on heart, left arm tucked into the ribs, elbow bent at 90 degrees, forearm reaching forward, palm up. Continue Breath of Fire for 2-3 minutes.
Special note: As the next bit requires open, yet strong shoulders, you may want to take a moment to shake out the arms, do a light twist, shrug or roll the shoulders, and roll the head.
For this portion, you will continue the Breath of Fire through the O mouth for another 3 minutes, now with the arms stretched out to the sides at shoulder level. Keep the palms facing up, and also extend the thumbs up as straight as possible. If you can not comfortably point the thumbs up, feel free to let them remain in the same plane as the upturned palms. In either case, stretch the arms out from the shoulders, with no bend in the elbows and creating a pull through the armpits; also bring the arms slightly back, so that you open the chest.
(This is a good time to check in on your neck alignment: Keep the chin parallel to the ground, slightly pulled in to the neck. Again, make sure that your shoulder blades are pulled down; they will want to rise to help relieve tension in the working shoulders.)
After 3 minutes, inhale and suspend the breath for 15 seconds as you stretch the arms even wider, and pull them back a bit more. Exhale fully, maintaining the arm position. Inhale a second time, retain the breath again for 15 seconds, and then release the arms down as you exhale.
Special note: The previous arm position and stretch can be surprisingly taxing. As a counterpose during or after the exercise, bring your arms into Garuda Mudra, or Eagle arms: In front of you at chest level, cross one arm over the other at the elbows; raise the forearms, wrap the wrists, and touch the palms together. (If neither the wrist wrap or palm touch is possible for you, simply cross one elbow over the other, and end the forearms to 90 degrees.) Slowly move the elbows down toward your belly, allowing your spine to round back and your head to come forward and down. Then, roll up to neutral, and bring the crossed arms up, with the elbows at about chest level; gently push the forearms away from you. Repeat the two stretches with the other arm on top.