Just like anything else, breath control and capacity increase with practice. In kevali kumbhaka (pronounced kay-VAH-lee koom-BAH-kah), you practice holding your breath. Don't make yourself dizzy. Don't hold your breath until you faint. Just hold your breath until you feel like you need to let it go again. The more you practice this technique, the longer you'll be able to hold your breath, which increases your lung capacity and makes your breathing more efficient.
1. Inhale deeply through the nose, then hold your breath.
2. Hold for as long as is comfortable.
3. Exhale gently, slowly, and fully.
4. Repeat several times.
We're confident you're feeling more energized by now. What a great way to prime your body for yoga postures—and life!
The Least You Need to Know
V Prana is the universal life force that permeates and animates everything, including you.
V Prana flows into the body via the breath, so controlling the breath controls the flow of prana.
V Practice pranayama with good posture for optimal results.
5. Repeat several times.
Just as you shouldn't push your body to achieve a difficult posture before it's ready, you also need to be aware of your breath capacity. Don't practice one-minute inhalations and two-minute exhalations your first time out! You may faint or hyperventilate. As always, listen to your body. It will tell you when you're going too far. Go slowly.
' Hatha Yoga: g May the Force Be with You
In This Chapter
V How opposites attract in Hatha Yoga
V How body obsession is a barrier
V How to keep yourself really, really clean
V Why yoga postures are so important
Yoga's ultimate realization of self-actualization isn't so mystical. It is a practical path with concrete steps. What is self-actualization? Yoga books often talk about enlightenment, but modern Western psychology has a similar notion.
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans have certain needs, from basic to fully evolved, that must be met for self-actualization to happen. These needs must be met approximately in order, because humans won't feel the "higher" needs until the "lower" needs are taken care of. Often represented in a pyramid graphic (looks a little like triangle pose in Chapter 13, "What Do You Stand For?"), Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs includes the following levels:
> First, our basic needs must be met: hunger, thirst, shelter, and physical comfort.
> Next, we must feel safe and out of danger.
What Do We Need? East Meets West!
> Third, according to Maslow, we require a sense of belonging and love. We need to know we are accepted and affiliated with others.
> Next, we need to achieve something, feel competent, gain approval, and develop a sense of self-esteem.
> Fifth comes the need to know and understand the world around us and ourselves.
> Sixth is our need to experience beauty and order, and to develop an aesthetic sense.
> Seventh is Maslow's level of self-actualization. Once our other needs are met, we experience a desire to find self-fulfillment, to realize our human potential, and to engage in work that is meaningful and to which we feel a personal calling.
> The last level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is transcendence. Once we have found personal fulfillment, we can reach out to help others realize their human potential, too.
So where does yoga come in? Hatha Yoga is a yoga system that emphasizes the physical along the path of self-actualization. After our basic needs are met, we feel safe, and we feel loved, yoga comes into play.
The yoga path helps us control and train our minds so we are better able to embark on a cognitive search. Its order, balance, symmetry, and the beauty of the poses can help fulfill our desire for aesthetic experiences. It can serve as a mode for self-actualization, and it certainly contributes to fulfillment, to reaching individual human potential, to simplification; in short, to becoming fully realized human beings.
While yoga doesn't necessarily have to be the vocation or activity you choose for self-actualization (perhaps you are an artist, a writer, an entrepreneur, a scientist, whatever), yoga trains your body, your mind, and your spirit so you can learn the fine arts of concentration, focus, commitment, and total immersion in the activities of your life. And that's where self-actualization happens.
Self-actualization through yoga comes out of more than just the poses, or asanas. It comes from purifying body and mind to make room for new experiences and broader awareness. It comes from the discipline of personal hygiene and maintaining a clean, simple environment (yoga cleansing rituals are called shodhana). It comes from the vi-talization of pranayama techniques (discussed in Chapter 7, "Can You Breathe?"). And it comes from the mental uncluttering of meditation.
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